When Ron Peduzzi last won a state championship, he hoisted his son John Patrick onto his shoulders for a celebratory photo.
JP was a mainstay on the sidelines at Hilton Head Prep, where his dad led the Dolphins to two state titles in three years from 2005-07, and he wore a stoic face as he sat atop his pop after HHP’s 25-14 win over rival Hilton Head Christian Academy at Hilton Head High.
Some 13 years later, not-so-little JP hopped on Big Peduzzi’s back to recreate that photo Saturday afternoon at Charleston Southern, this time wearing a beaming smile after the father and son enjoyed the pinnacle of success and the fruit of their shared labor.
“He was like, ‘Get on my back,'” JP Peduzzi said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to crush you!'”
Under his father’s tutelage, JP grew from an ornery ball boy with a Cheshire Cat grin to an absolute superstar who helped carry HHCA — the team against whom the Peduzzis enjoyed a hard-fought state championship win 13 years earlier — to a dominant 42-14 victory over Carolina Academy, capping a perfect 12-0 season with the program’s first SCISA 2A title since 2012.
The student was a master of his domain on Saturday, passing for 138 yards, rushing for a touchdown, and picking off two passes, the second of which he returned 55 yards for a TD that helped the Eagles turn the championship game into a coronation.
“He scored that touchdown and came over, and we had a great moment,” Ron Peduzzi said, choking back tears. “Four years he’s been here with me, and this is the pinnacle.”
A few hours later, Thomas Heyward Academy’s Nic and Dietrich Shuford shared a similar experience. Dietrich isn’t yet the star that JP has grown into, but he is well on his way. Only an eighth-grader, the younger Shuford took snaps at quarterback this season and contributed to a powerful ground game down the stretch, averaging 15 yards per carry with three 100-yard games and four touchdowns. He nearly found the end zone on a 57-yard run at the end of the Rebels’ 46-14 rout of Lee Academy in the SCISA 1A state championship game Saturday evening.
Seeing his own son excel in his introduction to varsity football — and for a team that rolled to 12 consecutive wins en route to a third straight state championship — brings on a lot of emotions for the elder Shuford, not all of them welcomed.
“It feels like I’m getting really old is what it feels like,” Nic Shuford said with a laugh.
He has plenty of reason to smile knowing his kid will be his QB1 for the next four years, and he looks like he will be a good one.
It is a delicate balance juggling the roles of Coach and Dad. Pushing your progeny to reach their full potential can be a volatile dynamic, but it can also foster an incredible bond.
“There were times when I would have to yell at him,” Ron Peduzzi said, “but he knew it was all about coaching.”
After their championship triumphs Saturday, both father-son duos shared emotional embraces on the field, then celebrated with family feasts. This stuff isn’t easy for mama and siblings, either.
But they say nothing worth having comes easy. And the bond the Peduzzis and Shufords have shared through football is priceless.
“To coach your son is a great gift, and if you get a chance, please do it,” Ron Peduzzi said. “I hope it works out for everyone the way it worked out for us.”
Written by Justin Jarrett