With regular starting quarterback Caleb Lewis having missed last week's Hilton Head Christian Academy win at Northwood Academy with a concussion, Thomas Heyward Academy was unsure which quarterback to prepare to face Friday night: Lewis or sophomore Brad Meccariello.
They had their fill of both.
Meccariello rushed for three touchdowns out of the Eagles' short-yardage package, and Lewis tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the second half, as Hilton Head Christian held on for a 35-26 road victory that clinches at least a share of the SCISAA Region 2-AA title for the Eagles.
"They've got a ton of weapons on offense, and it definitely starts up front with the line," Rebels coach Nic Shuford said. "(Tyler) Chisholm runs the ball hard, and they've got big, physical receivers they can throw the ball to, and Meccariello is a good hard runner, and Caleb can stand back there and throw it around pretty well. They're definitely a good football team."
The Eagles (8-1, 4-0) used all those weapons to win a second-half shootout after the defenses dominated a first half that ended tied at 6 when J.D. Tuten returned a Lewis interception 57 yards for the Rebels.
Chisholm rushed for a game-high 135 yards, gashing the Rebels (7-1, 3-1) with big gains on draw plays to keep drives alive, and Alex Martin and Jamario Williams each had a touchdown among their six catches.
But Thomas Heyward came up with plenty of its own big plays to keep it close. Tuten hit Forrest Richardson for an 80-yard touchdown to close within 21-14 late in the third quarter, Ryan Day returned a kickoff 92 yards for a score to keep the Rebels within a touchdown in the fourth, and Tuten capped the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run before a failed onside kick did in the Rebels' comeback hopes.
"You know with Thomas Heyward what you're going to get," Eagles lineman Kyle Weaver said. "They're not going to give up. You've got to respect them for that. They're well-coached, and they love playing football and love hitting."
The Eagles can wrap a perfect region season and the region title with a home win next week against rival Hilton Head Prep, while the Rebels need a win over St. Andrew's and either an Eagles win or a Dolphins win by less than five points to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round home game.
After the game, the Rebels were already talking about the potential for a rematch in the postseason -- possibly in the state championship game.
"Everybody's taking it hard right now -- first loss of the season," Tuten said. "I don't want to say it's positive, because we lost, but we've just got to beat St. Andrew's to be second in the region, and I like where we're sitting right now."