A lot was different Friday night at Hilton Head Christian Academy. But the winning ways remained the same.
On the opening act of the return of high school football following the COVID-19 shutdown, the HHCA Eagles displayed a total effort on the field, with a new pair of skilled quarterbacks leading the way.
Junior Jace Blackshear led the charge with three rushing touchdowns and added a receiving score as the Eagles stormed past the Dorchester Academy Raiders 40-12.
“It was great to be out there again,” HHCA coach Ron Peduzzi said. “A lot of people spent a lot of time these past six months to get us ready to play football. The kids have been working and were ready to come out and play. They didn’t get any scrimmages so there was some rust, so we’ve got lots of work ahead of us.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW PHOTO GALLERY
Hayden Shinn may have graduated, but both of his replacements were fantastic Friday night. Blackshear and JP Peduzzi, the two new signal-callers, led the Eagles down the field with a slightly different approach than Shinn’s days: short passes to the backs who can rack up quick yards on their own. The first scoring drive was a prime example, After a couple of blazing strikes through the air and a Peduzzi keeper, the ball was handed off to Troy Chisolm who took it in from three yards out for the Eagles’ first six points of the season.
The Raiders answered back with a quick lightning strike reminiscent of last year’s Eagle squad, scoring on a 70-yard bomb to Haden Hartzog. But it was all HHCA for the rest of the first half. In fact, it was all Jace Blackshear. The budding offensive superstar and the other half of Peduzzi’s two-headed monster punched the ball in from the 1-yard line, hauled in a 42-yard pass, and then threw a beauty across the middle to veteran Cameron Strickland to increase the halftime lead to three scores.
After Dorchester threatened with a comeback effort by scoring midway through the third, the Eagles responded with a fantastic nine-play drive. JP Peduzzi hooked up with three different receivers before the march was finished off by a Blackshear direct snap keeper, having no difficulties finding space on the outside thanks to a perfect block on his way to the end zone. But he wasn’t done yet. A Jayden Void circus-catch interception set up a 52-yard burst, as Blackshear found some blocks and sped by the chasing defenders on the left sideline for his fourth score of the night.
After an early hiccup, the defense was exceptional, coming up with stops on eight of 10 Raider third-down conversion attempts. The Raiders kept feeding Wyatt Judy and Ben Singletary, but neither could escape the junkyard dogs of HHCA. The Eagles then shut the door on any comeback by forcing three turnovers in the second half, including picks by Void and Eli Minton.
“[Void] is an exciting player,” Ron Peduzzi said. “He cramped up but he came back and made an awesome interception. He had some nice runs as well, so we’re really excited about him. We’ve got four or five guys who can make plays, get the ball in the second level, and make something happen.”
The Eagles will get a week off before a pair of road tests at Northwood Academy and Orangeburg Prep, the latter of which could end up being a tricky duel.
“We have to get our offense to be a little more comfortable and continue to get better on defense,” Ron Peduzzi said. “Our special teams are very good, we showed that tonight, and so we’ve just got to continue working on going from one week to the next and bring a business-like attitude to practice.”
If this is really just the start of what this team can do on both sides of the ball, it will be a heck of a task for any SCISA opponent to hang with the Eagles in 2020.
Written by Wes Kerr / Photos by Brooke Simons
Brooke Simons is a student-athlete at Hilton Head Island High School and an aspiring journalist. She has a passion for photography and broadcasting.