As a dad, Nic Shuford was anxious to see how his son’s surgically-repaired knee would hold up in his first game since suffering a devastating injury that ended his promising freshman season too soon. As a coach, he was ecstatic to see his star quarterback appears to be better than ever and the guy who did a heck of a job filling in for him is back where he belongs.
Less than a year after tearing his ACL, Thomas Heyward’s Dietrich Shuford erased all doubt and blew away all expectations in his return, accounting for eight touchdowns to lead the Rebels to a thrilling 56-48 win over SCISA 3A power Trinity Collegiate to open their fourth consecutive SCISA 1A title defense.
Shuford completed 13-of-18 passes for 400 yards and seven touchdowns — including eight tosses to receiver-turned-QB-turned-receiver Tyshon Mansell for a whopping 264 yards and six TDs — and added 73 yards on 17 carries, including a 35-yard TD run on third-and-13 in the waning minutes in which he spun out of a tackle at the 20 and darted to the end zone to all but guarantee victory.
The game was the centerpiece of the inaugural 1team1cause Showcase at Charleston Southern University, on the same turf where the Rebels claimed their fourth straight state title in dominant fashion last November. Mansell manned the offense in a 35-13 rout of Lee Academy, while the younger Shuford watched from the sidelines and helped coordinate the annual dousing of his dad with the water bucket.
Both made a more tangible impact Saturday, displaying an uncanny connection considering they hadn’t been on the field together in a game in nearly a year. Mansell repeatedly beat the Titans deep, and Shuford made all the right reads and put the throws on the money. On the rare occasions Trinity managed to cover Mansell, Shuford found other weapons including freshman phenom Tony O’Banner, who hauled in the other touchdown pass.
The Rebels’ defense left something to be desired, in part the result of a thin roster forcing key players to play on both sides of the ball in a game that turned into a track meet and a marathon simultaneously. But they won’t see an offense of Trinity’s caliber in Class 1A, and it’s impossible not to think about a looming showdown with Hilton Head Christian Academy in Week 7.
The event was a collaborative effort between the 1team1cause organization and WakeUp Carolina, which have teamed up to provide counseling and other services in their fight against drug use and addiction. And it provided a heck of an appetizer for Friday’s main course — and an impressive start to another title defense for a dynasty that doesn’t appear destined to die anytime soon.
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