If the Hilton Head Christian Academy football team was expected to be looking beyond Friday night's tussle with visiting Bethesda Academy to its showdown next week with rival Thomas Sumter Academy, someone forgot to tell the Eagles about it.
And that proved to be really bad news for the visitors from Savannah.
Continuing an offensive onslaught now four weeks rolling, Hilton Head Christian rung up 31 first-half points in a multitude of fashions en route to an impressive 45-24 win over the Blazers.
The victory is the fourth straight for the Christian Academy since opening the season with a disappointing 37-0 loss at Hammond -- a setback that seems to have fanned a flame rather than cast a shadow over the Eagles' season.
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"To be honest, we haven't played anyone like Hammond since that game, but I'm proud of the way the kids have responded from that loss," head coach Tommy Lewis said. "They didn't hang their heads but instead have fought hard to improve every week. We're blessed to have some great kids in this program."
A handful of those kids were on display Friday as the fireworks came early and often. Bethesda opened the game with a 95-yard kick return by speedster Shidel Williams only to see the Eagles' Zach Polk return the favor seconds later with a 68-yarder the other way.
The return sparked the Eagles and served notice the focus was on the game at hand, not the test to come one week from now.
"That was a huge play for us," Lewis said. "A kickoff return to start the game can really provide confidence to a team coming in here but we responded right back and actually went ahead with the extra point."
Yet as has been the case now for four consecutive games in which the Eagles have scored an impressive 179 total points, the Eagles had plenty of standouts in every aspect of the game. Senior Brandon Qualls scored a touchdown on a long pass play, and Tyler Chisholm kicked a 40-yard field goal, both in the first half. Junior Brad Meccariello scored a pair of touchdowns, one as a punt returner and another as a quarterback.
After falling behind 12-7, the Eagles quickly recaptured the lead late in the first quarter when quarterback Caleb Lewis hit Chisholm on a 49-yard strike after the Eagles recovered a failed onside kick.
The lead grew soon thereafter when Meccariello electrified the home crowd with a darting 60-yard punt return midway through the second quarter, which was followed by senior Jamario Williams' 5-yard touchdown run late in the quarter to push the Eagles lead to 31-12.
The strong first-half performance was doused a bit by poor special teams play by the Eagles that allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns to bookend the first half. The second of which was delivered by Jonathan DeLoach and sent the game to half at 31-18.
Other than those two miscues, the Hilton Head Christian Academy offense and defense dominated the game, moving the ball at will behind sophomore Lewis, who tallied a pair of touchdown passes, and a defense that allowed only two Bethesda touchdowns all evening with the last one coming with just a minute remaining in the game.
"We continue to improve every week because the guys are committed to doing what it takes to win," Lewis said. "We got it taken to us in the opener, and the kids have responded. We saw that again tonight."
Any thoughts of an Eagle letdown and Blazers second half rally were put to rest in the first seven minutes of the third quarter as the Eagles notched a pair of touchdowns, including a 38-yard game of catch between Lewis and junior C.J. Evanofski just three plays into the half. One possession later Meccariello added his second score of the game on a 17-yard third-down scamper to push the lead to 27 points and the Eagles to 4-1 on a season that seemed to start so poorly but has turned so quickly.
Next up, however, is that state championship rematch with Thomas Sumter, certainly the best team the Eagles have seen since the Hammond opener.
"I'm so proud of our guys because all week I never heard one thing about Thomas Sumter, they were focused on a dangerous opponent in Bethesda," Lewis said. "But now we can turn our attention to Thomas Sumter and spend this week getting ready for that challenge."
BA 12 6 0 6 -- 24
HHCA 14 17 14 0 -- 45
BA -- Shidel Williams 95 kick return (run failed)
HHCA -- Zach Polk 68 kick return (Chisholm kick)
BA -- Cory Baker 2 run (run failed)
HHCA -- Brandon Qualls 49 pass from Caleb Lewis (Chisholm kick)
HHCA -- Chisholm 40-yard FG
HHCA -- Brad Meccariello 60 punt return (Chisholm kick)
HHCA -- Jamario Williams 5 run (Chisholm kick)
BA -- Jonathan DeLoach 70 kick return (run failed)
HHCA -- C.J. Evanofski 38 pass from Lewis (Chisholm kick)
HHCA -- Meccariello 17 run (Chisholm kick)
BA -- Williams 25 run (pass failed)