HSFB: HHCA playing different role in return to state title game

Last year, they were the underdogs. But this time, the roles have been reversed. After a remarkable 11-0 run through the SCISA gauntlet, Hilton Head Christian Academy will be the prohibitive favorites to avenge last year’s loss and cap off a perfect season Saturday in the SCISA 2A Championship against Carolina Academy. 

When Hayden Shinn walked off Benedict College’s field a year ago, there were many questions about whether HHCA’s offense could do it without him in 2020. But JP Peduzzi and Jace Blackshear answered that question from opening night, and the rest was history. 

What followed was a two-man symphony that became music to the Eagles’ ears. The duo became an unstoppable display of talent, whether they hooked up through the air or took to the ground. Peduzzi has dazzled with his strong arm and power and Blackshear with his elusiveness and speed to create an unrivaled offense. 

Of course, it hasn’t been just the two stars. Cameron Strickland has become a go-to receiver down the stretch in his senior year, and several others including Jackson Lanier and freshman Isaiah Anderson have been reliable outlets when Peduzzi or Blackshear are covered. After some struggles, this offense took it to a new level in the playoffs, scoring 63 points in each of the first two games. 

The last team standing in the way of this explosive offense and a state championship is a pesky Carolina Academy squad, which has yet to allow more than 23 in a game this season. It’s the final game for longtime coach T.J. Joye, who’s led the Bobcats for more than 20 years. Carolina Academy will look to use its own offensive duo to their advantage. Running backs Austin Brown and George Wilder will look to attack an HHCA defense that has been inconsistent against the run this season. 

It’ll take a tremendous effort by star defensive linemen Kent Camp and Liam Sirgo to take away running room for two dangerous weapons. Lanier and Troy Chisolm anchor a strong linebacking corps and will be working hard to stuff a potent run game Saturday afternoon. If Brown and Wilder can continually pick up chunks of yards on the ground, they can control the clock and limit that dangerous Eagle offense from taking the field. But if the Junkyard Dogs can dig in and stop the run game just like they did against Pee Dee’s Coleby Sinclair, they’ll have no problem shutting down the Bobcats and cruising to a state title.

There’s no doubt that HHCA will find ways to score on offense. If Peduzzi and Blackshear can avoid careless mistakes and miscues, the talent of this group should win over and put up scores in bunches. Just like last game, HHCA coach Ron Peduzzi knows that defense will be the key. With how good that offense is, a couple fourth-down stops or a big forced turnover by the defense should be enough for the Eagles to finish the job, bring home a state title, and cap off their time on the island with a perfect football season.

PREDICTION: Hilton Head Christian 42, Carolina Academy 21 

Written by Wes Kerr / Photos by Justin Jarrett

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