The refrain was simple on the final drive. “Tough teams win in the rain.” The Hilton Head Christian Academy Eagles listened and dug deep to finish off their first win of the season.
Dylan Clark threw for two touchdowns, and a locked-in Eagle defense stood tall to withstand the weather — and an unbeaten Ben Lippen team — in a 15-9 home victory.
“We got a long way to go, but I saw a little Junkyard Dog out there,” HHCA coach Ron Peduzzi said. “Love the effort, love the battle, being on this field definitely means something.”
Hilton Head Christian’s defense was ready for the challenge on the opening series, flying to the football and making strong tackles. The Eagles forced a three-and-out on Ben Lippen’s opening series and made a game-changing play on the next one. After Clark was intercepted by Buzz Buxton, the soaring Eagles got the ball right back, knocking the ball loose from running back Taevian Copney and pouncing on the fumble at the Ben Lippen 41.
The offense ran with the new momentum, as Clark hooked up with the electric Gage Zatalokin for a 16-yard gain. Peduzzi wanted to see some big plays from his quarterback, and on an early third-down in the red zone, Clark delivered. The junior delivered a beautiful ball to the back of the end zone, and Qayden Turner used his long frame to pull it in and secure a 7-0 Eagle lead.
The Falcons were on the hunt for an answer after a 26-yard pass from Dobson Ricks to Bryce Craft to convert on fourth down, but versatile HHCA transfer Tucker Tevepaugh read a pass perfectly and picked it off in the end zone to deny points to the visitors. Both defenses dominated for the rest of the half, and both Matthew Scarpa and Isaiah Anderson stormed into the backfield for sacks on the final drive before the break.
The rain was unrelenting as the third quarter kicked off, but it didn’t stop the Falcons from finding the end zone for the first time of the night. It was the Copney show on the ground, surging through the pouring rain for 31 yards before swishing his way to the end zone for a 27-yard score. But a pre-snap penalty on the conversion try proved to be costly for Ben Lippen, as the PAT operation went awry in the rain to keep HHCA on top 7-6.
The Eagles wasted no time answering back, thanks to another dazzling throw from Clark. After a holding penalty forced a third-and-15 on the HHCA 45, Clark delivered another huge third-down throw to add to the lead, dropping a perfectly-placed ball into the arms of a streaking Morgan Bedenbaugh, who sped across the goal line into a raucous student section in The Cage to make it 13-6.
Then, it was the defense’s turn to steal the show. After the Eagles pushed back Copney for a 6-yard loss, Matthew “Big Daddy” Scarpa blocked Ben Lippen’s punt right into the roaring Cage for a safety and a two-possession lead.
“Best game he’s played all year,” Peduzzi said of Scarpa. “He showed some leadership by his play and his effort.”
The Falcons strung together a long drive in the final quarter in an attempt to hang around and came through with a pair of fourth-down conversions to set up a 29-yard field goal and trim the lead to six points with four minutes to play. Ben Lippen’s defense did its job with a sack of Dylan Clark to force a punt, giving the Falcons a chance to steal it in the final moments. But the Eagles dug in under the steady rain, shutting down the Ben Lippen passing game to shut the door and pull out a monstrous first win of the 2022 campaign.
“I’m excited that we got better,” Peduzzi said. “I’m excited that they played and they battled, and we gotta take it from there.”
Clark had his best game yet under center for the Eagles, going 6-for-17 for 106 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while adding 93 rushing yards on 22 carries. Bedenbaugh secured two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown, while Zatalokin reeled in two passes for 31 yards. Tevepaugh impressed on both defense and special teams, coming up with a clutch interception while pinning the Falcons deep with his superior punting skills.
Hilton Head Christian (1-2) is well-positioned to even its record when the Eagles host Northwood Academy (0-4) on Friday.
By Wes Kerr
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