In a season marked by dominance at every turn, Hilton Head Christian Academy’s four senior stars saved their best performance for last.
Speedy Robinson found the end zone three times, Jace Blackshear tossed two touchdown passes, and Jackson Lanier and Riley Shinn anchored a sensational defensive showing Saturday in a 34-7 annihilation of unbeaten Williamsburg Academy at Charleston Southern University to capture back-to-back SCISA 2A state championships.
“I said at the beginning, these four guys are going to carry us, and the whole team was on their backs,” Peduzzi said. “But slowly, they jumped off their backs, and other guys started making plays too. I think that loss in the 2019 state championship game really propelled these last two years.”
It looked like the Stallions could land the first blow under the Charleston night sky, but a bad snap in Eagle territory derailed Conrad Balder’s promising first drive. Blackshear and the Eagles went quietly in their opening possession and turned the ball over on a Peduzzi gamble on fourth down inside their own 25. But the veteran coach trusted his defense, and the Eagles forced a punt after drawing an intentional grounding call.
Blackshear took over at his own 5-yard-line and led a methodical 14-play drive to open the championship game’s scoring. The senior quarterback got the offense going with a pair of electric runs and kept the ball on the ground with Lanier and Robinson before the latter stormed across the goal line from three yards out.
Williamsburg’s Caleb Kline found some holes and used his quickness to push the ball close to midfield, but the Eagles were helped again by several wild WA snaps to send the punting unit back onto the field.
The Stallions would have to take advantage of HHCA’s miscues to unseat the champs, and the challengers to the title-holders got their break midway through the second quarter. Blackshear hit Lanier across the middle near the Eagle 30, but a collision at the end of the play knocked the ball free and into the arms of a green jersey. But just like they have done all season long, the Junkyard Dogs stood tall. Kline was stuffed on two straight runs, and Wells Sharpe led the Eagles to a third-down stop before the Stallions fumbled the opportunity away as the ball bounced out of bounds on a hook-and-lateral attempt on fourth down.
Blackshear seized the newfound momentum and orchestrated an 11-play, 68-yard drive to cap off the first half. After hooking up with Lanier and Robinson to reach the Williamsburg 20, the Stallions forced a trio of Blackshear scrambles to set up a fourth-and-16.
On the game’s biggest play just seconds before halftime, Blackshear knew who to find.
The senior quarterback took the snap, evaded a pass rusher, and sizzled a dart to Lanier, who powered his way to the 8-yard-line. With just 10 seconds to go in the half, Robinson took an inside handoff and burst between his blockers and into the end zone for a 12-0 halftime lead.
The Eagles received the second-half kickoff looking to pounce on a weary Williamsburg squad. Just five plays later, Speedy struck again. The Ridgeland-Hardeeville transfer completed the hat-trick with a highlight-reel run, breaking through a pair of Stallions and bulldozing his way across the goal line for a 14-yard score before Blackshear scampered in with the two-point try to go up 20-0.
“What a great young man [Speedy is], on and off the field,” Peduzzi said. “He doesn’t say much, he just leads by playing.”
On the next play from scrimmage, Robinson came through again to get the ball back for his offense. The running back-turned-linebacker popped the ball from Kline’s grasp, and Matthew Scarpa fell on it to give the Eagles a chance to land the final blow. Then, it was time for the Bulldog’s curtain call. In shades of last year’s signature score, Lanier pulled off one more eye-popping moment, taking in a short pass from Blackshear and rumbling past defenders on his way to a 24-yard touchdown.
“A couple years from now, I’m going to look over and say, you know what this team needs? A Bulldog,” Peduzzi said. “He just plays with everything he’s got.”
The Junkyard Dog defense was suddenly primed for a shutout, as Scarpa and James Crosby brought down Balder to halt a drive in HHCA territory. But a muffed punt gave Williamsburg a gift at the 5-yard-line, and Balder snuck in from a yard out on second down to put his team on the scoreboard.
Blackshear didn’t want that bad taste in his mouth for long, and went right back to work for one final touchdown drive. His last throw to the end zone was a beauty, dialing up Isaiah Anderson, who used his dominant height to haul in a 21-yard pass and cap off a resounding 34-7 victory. After two more terrific defensive stops with another Scarpa sack, the Eagles’ job was done. The confetti soared from the stands, and the Junkyard Dogs stormed to midfield as top dogs again.
“For me to go out in my last game ever with this team as state champions, it feels great,” Lanier said. “Last year, I was doing it for my seniors, and this year, I was doing it for our seniors.”
In his final act on the football field for Hilton Head Christian Academy, Blackshear delivered a phenomenal outing, completing 15 of 19 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns while showcasing his electric running abilities with 60 yards on the ground. Robinson was spectacular, running for 48 yards on nine carries with three touchdowns and adding another 48 yards on four catches. Lanier led all receivers with four grabs for 81 yards, and Shinn made three catches for 42 yards.
The wounds were still fresh from the Eagles’ heartbreaking overtime loss to Trinity Collegiate in 2019. But it was that defeat that fueled the success of these past two championship seasons. Now, two unbeaten campaigns and 25 wins later, a quartet of seniors departs a program that they helped shape into a SCISA juggernaut.
“The advantage we had against Williamsburg wasn’t that we won a state championship last year, it was that we lost one,” Peduzzi said. “I said to the whole team, what did it feel like to lose that game? And over the whole week, it really sunk into them. I know that made a difference.”
By Wes Kerr
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