The ride may not have always been smooth, but Hilton Head Christian Academy returns to the SCISAA Class 2-A championship game against Florence Christian at noon on Saturday at Benedict College.
The Eagles (9-2) are right where first-year head coach Ryan Mitch thought they would be.
"The goal was to get here," Mitch said after Friday night's 45-26 win over Palmetto Christian. "After starting 0-2, I said, 'we need to get just one win. That's all we need. One win to get this thing rolling.' And what is it, nine in a row now? This is what we've been building toward."
A week after a lackluster start in the Eagles' 43-28 win over Thomas Sumter Academy left Mitch disappointed, the team turned in a stellar effort against Palmetto Christian to earn a shot at a third straight championship.
Despite the Eagles' success in recent years, Mitch said he didn't feel pressure after taking over for former Christian Academy coach Tommy Lewis.
"It's not a pressure thing for me," Mitch said. "I mean, we set the goal at the beginning of the season to go back and win another championship. But in terms of what they did in the past, we lost a lot on defense, the entire offensive and defensive line. We're a young team on defense with no experience.
"I know some people think because we've still got Meccariello and Clark and some of those guys that everything is the same. That's not the case. You lose a lot of talent, and that's when you come together as a team."
The addition of senior running back Deo'Vonte Doe certainly hasn't hurt the Eagles.
The former Ridgeland-Hardeeville star carried the ball 23 times for 204 yards and three touchdowns in Friday's win.
"He's the real deal," quarterback Brad Meccariello said. "If he gets some open space, it's over. I mean, he's gone."
The Eagles will likely need another big game from Doe in the final against Florence Christian.
"They hammered Northwood, and (Northwood was) probably the most athletic team we played all year," Mitch said. "(Florence Christian has) two good running backs, they're pretty good up front and they pound it at you."