HSFB 2022: Clark, HHCA outduel THA in clash of SCISA champs

On the night the Hilton Head Christian Academy Eagles honored their past, it was a future star that shined the brightest.

Breakout quarterback Dylan Clark dazzled with 354 passing yards while accounting for all five HHCA touchdowns, and the Eagles soared past Thomas Heyward 33-24 at home Friday in a battle of defending SCISA state champions. 

It was the fifth straight win for Hilton Head Christian including the second in just five days and marked the end of THA’s 15-game win streak — a perfect occasion for HHCA’s celebration of 20 years of football history.  

“It was a challenge,” Hilton Head Christian coach Ron Peduzzi said. “It was a great football game, we responded and made a couple big plays. I know we haven’t seen our best game yet, so that’s the exciting part for me.” 

The Rebels landed the first blow with a setup from the defense, as sensational freshman Tony O’Banner pounced on a fumble before making it pay with a 52-yard touchdown catch from Dietrich Shuford. 

Momentum was swinging quickly toward the visitors, but an early gamble turned it the other way on a dime. The Rebels went for it on fourth-and-2 at their own 9, but an incomplete pass set the Eagles up with a short field. 

And they cashed in. It took four plays, but Clark plunged across on his last shot to even the game at 6. A blocking penalty stymied the ensuing Heyward drive, and Clark promptly hooked up with the athletic Isaiah Anderson for the lead. The junior quarterback sailed a deep pass Anderson’s way in a one-on-one matchup, and the 6-foot-5 receiver bobbled and reeled it in to erupt The Cage with a 56-yard touchdown catch. 

The big play inspired the defense to turn it up another notch, and James Crosby came through, intercepting a Shuford pass and bringing it inside the THA 10. Clark did the rest, fighting across the goal line for an 18-6 lead. 

The red-hot junior quarterback continued to deliver on the next series, orchestrating a seven-play drive with excellent accuracy and poise. Clark hit AJ Houpt for two straight completions and came up clutch at the end, sizzling a strike to Qayden Turner in the back right corner of the end zone. 

“Dylan was a battler out there and made some nice plays,” Peduzzi said. “He has a linebacker mentality playing quarterback.”

Thomas Heyward needed a response down 25-6, and Shuford came up with his best drive of the night, hitting Cutter Williams for a 23-yard gain before surging past the goal line for an important score before the half. Clark connected with Houpt again to give a chance for the field goal unit, but the kick came up short to keep it 25-12 at the break. 

The Eagles came out looking to land another punch to start the third quarter, and Clark conjured another magnificent drive, completing passes to three different receivers and powering into the end zone for the third time to go up 33-12. Hope was starting to fade for the visitors after Shuford left to tend to an injury, but the capable Tyshon Mansell put the offense on his back, picking up 15 yards on fourth down before Shuford returned to finish the touchdown drive. 

The Rebels made a huge stand near the goal line to get the ball back with under five minutes left, and Williams came up huge to move the sticks on third down, hauling in a quick pass from Shuford and zooming 91 yards to the HHCA 4. Two plays later, Anthony Fripp was in the end zone, and the Rebels were a two-point try away from making it just a one-possession game. 

But the Junkyard Dogs stood tall. The Eagles played the conversion attempt beautifully and forced an incomplete pass to keep the margin at nine. 

The star of the night finished it off, as Clark and a hungry offensive line salted away the rest of the clock to seal the clash of SCISA champions and HHCA’s fifth straight win.

Clark was sensational in the victory, completing 17 of 26 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns while adding 63 rushing yards and three scores. Houpt led the Eagles in receiving with a breakout performance, catching five balls for 135 yards. Turner reeled in three passes for 61 yards, and Anderson tacked on a beautiful 56-yard touchdown catch. 

Shuford went 9-of-22 for 218 yards with a touchdown and a pick alongside two rushing scores. Williams made three receptions for 122 yards, and Fripp produced on the ground with 55 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries while racking on three catches for 33 yards.

HHCA (5-2) heads to Pee Dee Academy for a marquee SCISA 3A matchup Friday, while Thomas Heyward (5-1) visits Beaufort Academy on Friday.

By Wes Kerr

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