High School Football

Thomas Heyward travels to Savannah for rare Thursday night game

Rebels face St. Andrew's having won four straight

mmccombs@islandpacket.comOctober 3, 2013 

Thomas Heyward Academy football coach Nic Shuford drew on his wealth of knowledge about playing Thursday night games when preparing this week for the Rebels' game at St. Andrew's in Savannah, Ga.

That is to say, he made it up.

"This is the first (Thursday night game) I've had," Shuford said of the Rebels' 7 p.m. contest. "We've never played one. I'll let you know after Thursday. It hasn't been too terribly difficult for us. We ran a normal Monday through Wednesday. Hopefully that was a good decision."

If Thursday goes like most of the season has gone for Shuford and the Rebels, it will be a happy bus ride home from Georgia.

Thomas Heyward entered the season with two major question marks. How would the Rebels replace the production of graduated stars J.D. Tuten, Ryan Day and Bryan Lee Wade? And would the Rebels' young secondary grow up quickly enough to avert disaster?

After two tough losses to open the season, Thomas Heyward has rolled off four straight wins and seems to have answered the queries.

When it comes to replacing the stars, the Rebels may have exceeded expectations.

"We're really balanced on offense," Shuford said. "More so than in the past two or three years."

Jared Rountree (72 carries, 543 yards, five touchdowns), Seth Jones (40 carries, 425 yards, four touchdowns) and Zach Belger (48 carries, 322 yards, four touchdowns) have all had success running the ball, while Davis Owens has thrown for 623 yards and eight touchdowns against just three interceptions.

"We've got a number of guys that can make things happen," Shuford said.

Shuford thinks Jones will be especially important this week as the Lions stuff the box and force the Rebels to pass. Jones leads the Rebels with 352 yards and five touchdowns on 18 catches.

As for the secondary?

"We've gotten tremendously better every week in the secondary," Shuford said. "We had four picks Saturday night and three the week before. We're playing better, we've made huge improvements."

Shuford said the lines have been improving on a weekly basis, as well.

"We've got two starters (Tank Boni, Jessie McKenzie) out," Shuford said. But guys are stepping up, and we're getting better every week."

As for this week's opponent, Shuford warns that the Lions' 1-4 record is misleading. St. Andrew's has played just one SCISAA school and has faced several private school juggernauts from Georgia.

The Rebels' coach is particularly leery of Lions' running back Wright Wallace (No. 22) and wideout Jake Zaren (No. 9).

"No. 9 and No. 22," Shuford said. "They can make things happen on offense. You give them a crease, they're gone.

"They like to move them around -- in the backfield, at wing and at wideout. We've got to do a good job and contain those guys."

On offense, though, the plan is the same as always for the Rebels, according to Shuford.

"Control the clock and put some long, lengthy scoring drives together."

This week's schedule

Thursday

Thomas Heyward Academy at St. Andrews School, 7 p.m.

Friday

Battery Creek at Bishop England, 7:30 p.m.

Beaufort Academy at Coastal Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Hilton Head Island at Stall, 7:30 p.m.

Hilton Head Prep at Calhoun Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Goose Creek at Beaufort High, 7:30 p.m.

Ridgeland-Hardeeville at Academic Magnet, 7:30 p.m.

Thomas Sumter Academy at Hilton Head Christian, 7 p.m.

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