The key contributors were different and the offenses changed, but the most recent renewal of the growing gridiron rivalry between Hilton Head Christian Academy and Thomas Heyward Academy had a familiar feel on the scoreboard Friday night in Ridgeland.
After spotting the Rebels an early touchdown, Hilton Head Christian reeled off 45 straight points en route to a 45-14 victory, its fifth straight triumph after opening the season 0-2. The lopsided win was the Eagles' third straight over the Rebels in the past 11 months, including a victory in the 2012 SCISAA Class 2-A state championship game.
With many stars from last year gone, the Eagles were led this time by senior transfer Deo'Vonte Doe, who tallied three touchdowns and just over 100 yards rushing in the first half after the Rebels took an early 7-0 lead behind a 3-yard touchdown run by Jared Rountree on Thomas Heyward's first possession of the game.
After tying the contest with a 1-yard blast early in the first quarter, Doe tilted the game permanently in the Eagles' favor with a 45-yard scamper late in the quarter that would give the Eagles a lead that they would never relinquish.
Doe, who was playing for nearby Ridgeland-Hardeeville when these two teams tussled in the state championship last season, has been the workhorse for the Christian Academy for much of this campaign. On Friday, he enjoyed his first taste of this signature SCISAA Region 2-AA rivalry.
In addition to his three first-half scores, which were capped by a 9-yard run late in the second quarter, the tailback added a 53-yard score in the third quarter and accounted for more 200 yards of total offense as the Eagles improved to 2-0 in the region.
It's a performance that first-year coach Ryan Mitch is growing quite accustomed to.
"A lot of times he makes something out of absolutely nothing," said Mitch. "So many times it looks like a dead play but he just runs through someone or makes the defender miss and then no one is going to catch him in the open field."
While the Eagles rode their powerful ground game, the Rebels struggled to get their offense on track after their 84-yard opening scoring drive.
Three turnovers, two of which led directly to Eagles scores, and inopportune penalties plagued the Rebels and put pressure on a defense that struggled to get off the field.
In fact, after punting on its opening drive, Hilton Head Christian scored on six straight possessions to open a humbling 38-7 lead against the Rebels, who lost the hard-fought title game last December by just one touchdown.
"I take nothing away from that football team over there, they are really talented," Rebels coach Nic Shuford said. "But we were in position to make plays all game and just didn't seem to get it done."
In addition to Doe, the Christian Academy got strong performances from its core group of upperclassmen.
Senior quarterback Brad Meccariello found junior tailback Deangelo Clark on a 52-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-20 late in the third quarter to push the lead to 31. Senior fullback Reece Dolyniuk had a 2-yard touchdown plunge late in the fourth quarter to close the scoring for the Eagles.
"Running is going to be our bread and butter, but we're pretty multiple, so we can do a little bit of everything," Mitch said. "All the guys are stepping up and we need to keep that going."
The Rebels, who got a 15-yard touchdown run by Collin Roach late in the fourth quarter, entered Friday's contest riding a wave of momentum after a late victory over Hilton Head Prep last week but simply couldn't get their offense going against the Eagles.
"It just boils down to the fact we didn't make enough plays," Shuford said. "But we have a great bunch of guys who I know are going to use this as motivation moving forward."
While admittedly new to the rivalry, Mitch agrees that the 31-point victory isn't reflective of the margin of difference between his Eagles and the Rebels, who still figure to be a factor in the playoffs just a few weeks from now. In fact, the Eagles coach wouldn't be surprised to find himself game-planning against Thomas Heyward soon.
"They are a team that can be scary because they are so physical," Mitch said. "If we do see them again we'll have to step up to the table and play just as physical, or even more so, than we did tonight."
Hilton Head Christian 45, Thomas Heyward 14
HHCA 7 17 14 7 -- 45
THA 7 0 0 7 -- 14
THA--Jared Rountree 3 run (Anthony Sanders kick)
HHCA--Deo'Vonte Doe 1 run (J.R. Moise kick)
HHCA--Doe 45 run (Moise kick)
HHCA--Doe 9 run (Moise kick)
HHCA--Moise 29 field goal
HHCA--Doe 53 run (Moise kick)
HHCA--DeAngelo Clark 52 pass from Brad Meccariello (Moise kick)
HHCA--Reece Dolyniuk 2 run (Moise kick)
THA--Collin Roach 15 run (Sanders kick)