The Hilton Head Christian Academy football team knew it would face a challenge in the opening round of the SCISAA Class 2-A playoffs against a hard-running Orangeburg Prep squad.
That challenge was even greater for the Eagles knowing star running back Chris "Cheese" Edwards was sidelined with an ankle injury and breakaway runner Andy Ballard was limited by a sore ankle.
The Eagles asked freshman Chandler Edmonds -- normally the starting center -- and senior quarterback Ryan Barrett to carry the load. They nearly delivered.
In the end, the Indians rode the legs of junior Hart Harley to a 28-25 win over the Eagles on Friday night at Hilton Head Christian Academy.
Never miss a local story.
"We used every bullet we had," Hilton Head Christian coach Ryan Mitch said. "We played hard, and we played pretty decent. They played well. When you don't have a couple of your horses, a couple of your guys are out injured, in SCISAA it makes a difference."
Harley finished with 149 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 carries to lead the Indians (5-7) into the next round.
Both of Harley's scores came after halftime. The first was set up by the play of the game, freshman Bill Metts' sack of Barrett on the Eagles' opening possession of the half. Metts blitzed from the edge, stripped the football and recovered it at the HHCA 11. Harley found the end zone on the next play, giving Orangeburg Prep a lead it would never relinquish.
Harley also added a 39-yard scoring play that gave the Indians some cushion in the fourth quarter.
"He ran the ball hard," Mitch said. "We'd shut him down for a drive, and they'd adjust the next time and run the football pretty well."
The story was essentially the same for Edmonds, who had 23 carries for 115 yards. But his longest run of the night went for 13 yards, while Harley had five runs of 10 yards or longer.
"Chandler, our running back back there, is a freshman -- and he's going to be an absolute stud -- but he's 5 or 6 yards and he's going to run somebody over," Mitch said. "With Cheese, and when Andy's healthy, it could be 80 any play. All season long we've been 2 yards, 3 yards, 80 yards. Tonight we had to actually drive the ball, and we did it for the most part."
In fact, the Eagles' four scoring drives went like this: 8 plays (touchdown), 14 plays (touchdown), 15 plays (field goal) and 10 plays (touchdown).
"It was a game of runs, and I thought we played overall pretty well," Mitch said. "It is what it is."
While Edmonds was plowing ahead in the ground game, Barrett was doing about everything else for the Eagles (7-4). He was 21 of 35 passing for 214 yards and a pair of scores, and also had some wild scrambles to keep drives alive. He didn't get a rest on defense either. He chased down Orangeburg Prep quarterback Tim Schriver on a long run in the fourth quarter, popping the football out from behind and helping to set up the Eagles' final score of the night.
The Christian Academy had one final chance to tie or take the lead after stopping the Indians on downs with about two minutes remaining. A pass and a couple of runs by Barrett moved the ball to Orangeburg's 32-yard line with 90 seconds left, but three straight incompletions ended the drive and the Indians were able to kneel down for the win.
"We didn't take advantage of a couple opportunities and we had a couple of missed calls, and that's the game," Mitch said.
Orangeburg Prep 28, Hilton Head Christian Academy 25
OP 7 7 6 8 -- 28
HHCA 7 7 3 8 -- 25
OP -- Tim Schriver 1 run (Chris Brown kick), 8:49
HHCA -- Zach Whitton 23 pass from Ryan Barrett (Evan Berkner kick), 5:08
OP -- JJ Union 16 pass from Schriver (Brown kick), 4:17
HHCA -- Joey Lankowski 5 pass from Barrett (Berkner kick), 0:17
OP -- Hart Harley 11 run (kick failed), 10:18
HHCA -- Berkner 21 field goal, 0:16
OP -- Harley 39 run (Schriver run), 10:06
HHCA -- Barrett 1 run (Chandler Edmonds run), 4:51
Rushing: OP -- Hart Harley 23-149, Chris Brown 11-54, Tim Schriver 8-50; HHCA -- Chandler Edmonds 23-115, Ryan Barrett 11-31, Ben Viljac 3-5
Passing: OP -- Schriver 2-9-1-19; HHCA -- Barrett 21-35-0-214
Receiving: OP -- JJ Union 2-19; HHCA -- Andy Ballard 6-39, Zack Whitton 6-66, Joey Lankowski 5-42, Matt Van Grouw 3-54, James Bartholomew 1-13