The seniors on this season's edition of the Thomas Heyward Academy football team are largely responsible for turning the program around and pushing the Rebels within a victory of last season's SCISSA 2-A championship game.
If anyone thought for a second they were satisfied, they would be mistaken.
"That was awful," senior quarterback JD Tuten said of the 28-7 SCISAA Class 2-A playoff loss at the hands of Thomas Sumter Academy last November. "I took that real hard. That was the first time I'd ever been to the playoffs in my life."
Senior running back Ryan Day said watching last year's seniors go out on a disappointing note was inspiration to work harder.
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"We have to have a short memory, definitely, but we're building off it. We've put in the work the whole summer to get back," Day said. "It was tough. I was really close to those guys. It would be tough to have that happen to us."
Fourth-year head coach Nic Shuford says if anything, the disappointing end to the successful season has made his team that much more focused on finishing the job.
"Two or three days after that loss, the rising seniors were knocking on the door and wanting to get in the weight room. They wanted to get bigger, faster, stronger," Shuford said. "I think we've got a lot of guys that played in that game last year that saw how those seniors went out last year, and they don't want to end their high school career that way. They want a state championship."
Tuten and Day represent a large chunk of the Rebels' offensive output returning from last season.
Tuten passed for 839 yards and 16 touchdowns against just four interceptions while rushing for 658 more yards and eight scores. Day had a monster season, rushing for 1,604 yards and 25 touchdowns, catching four touchdown passes and averaging 36 yards per kickoff return with two more scores.
"We've got JD, Day, and (Hayden) Daley back carrying the ball out of the backfield and (Bryan Lee) Wade, (Andrew) Fowler, (Forrest) Richardson and (Seth) Jones at receiver," Shuford said. "Skill-wise, I feel pretty good right now."
And the defense is a strong suit, according to Shuford. While there have been position changes, like moving Day from defensive back to linebacker to take advantage of his instincts, there are no real personnel questions.
But Shuford and the Rebels know that for them to have a successful season, the offensive line must develop quickly. The Rebels must replace five players who saw significant time in the trenches last season.
"We saw a lot of good things (in the first scrimmage) and we saw some things with the O-line we have to get worked out," Shuford said.
But senior Nick Kiefer, who Day calls, the unquestioned "leader on both sides of the line," is optimistic the Rebels line will pull together.
"We have the potential to be good, we're just not there yet," Kiefer said. "When we look at film, the mistakes are small. The people we have, we can be good. We're just not quite there yet.
"We will be good though. I have a feeling."
Stadium: Harvey-Beach Stadium
Region: SCISAA Region 2-AA
Coach: Nic Shuford (18-13, 4th year)
2011 results: 9-2, lost in SCISAA 2-A playoffs to Thomas Sumter Academy.
Key losses: OL Nick Ashcroft, OL Mercer Clark, DB/WR Dylan Crosby, OL/LB Jonathan Heller, OL/DL Joe Laycock, OL Devin Riley
Top returning starters: RB/LB Ryan Day, OL/DL Brodie Etheridge, LB Seth Jones, OL/DL Nick Keifer, DL Shane Mixson, LB/DE Zack Newton, QB/DB JD Tuten, DB/TE Bryan Lee Wade
Key newcomers: TE/LB Kyle Roach, Sr.; DB Colin Roach, Fr.; OL/DL Jessie McKenzie, Soph.
Date Opponent W/L Score
Sept. 2 BIBLE BAPTIST W 21-0
Sept. 9 Northwood Academy W 41-14
Sept. 16 COLLETON PREP W 28-21
Sept. 23 ST. JOHNS CHRISTIAN W 39-20
Sept. 30 Robert E. Lee W 48-12
Oct. 7 First Baptist W 47-0
Oct. 14 HILTON HEAD PREP W 18-13
Oct. 21 HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN L 26-35
Oct. 28 St. Andrews W 49-14
Nov. 4 FLORENCE CHRISTIAN* W 61-25
Nov. 11 Thomas Sumter* L 7-28
HOME GAMES IN CAPS (*playoff game)
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 17 Orangeburg Prep 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 Bible Baptist 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 Calhoun Academy 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 COLLETON PREP 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 Lee Academy 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 THOMAS SUMTER 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 ST. ANDREWS 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 HILTON HEAD PREP* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 Hilton Head Christian* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 NORTHWOOD ACADEMY* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 Palmetto Christian* 7:30 p.m.
HOME GAMES IN CAPS *Region opponent
Players to watch
Carson Boyles, LT: The Rebels are entrusting a starting spot on the weaker side of their all-new offensive line to a freshman. "Boyles is a ninth-grader, but he's a big boy and he's learning fast," Tuten said. "He's picking the offense up quickly."
Nick Kiefer, DL: Shuford expects big things from the Rebels' leader on both sides of the line. "He's hard to block in the backfield, all right," Shuford said. "He's real quick off the ball. He's one of the ones in the weight room all summer. He's hard to move. I think Nick's going to have a big year. I think he's going to have an all-region, all-area type of season."
Three Keys to the Season
Hold the line: The Rebels replace almost the entire line this year. If this year's group -- Sr. RT Nick Kiefer, Sr. RG John Padgett, Jr. C Brodie Etheridge, Sr. LG Justin Malphrus and Fr. LT Carson Boyles -- doesn't pull together, things could get rough in the backfield.
Stay healthy: Especially given the situation on the offensive line, the Rebels can't afford any significant long-term injuries. "We've had key players go down early before and miss the rest of the season," Shuford said. "We're just not that deep."
Jell early: After an opener at 3-A Orangeburg Prep, the Rebels have four favorable matchups before hosting a physical Thomas Sumter team before region play begins.
2011 roster (in numerical order)
No. Name Position Height Weight Class
1 JD Tuten QB/DB 5-11 165 Jr.
2 Kyle Roach TE/LB 5-7 170 Sr.
5 Jared Rountree RB/DB 5-5 145 Soph.
6 Zach Belger 5-7 140 Fr.
9 Anthony Sanders 5-5 115 Fr.
10 Davis Owens QB/DB 5-9 110 Jr.
12 Seth Jones RB/LB 6-0 190 Jr.
14 Chase Kunich 5-9 120 Fr.
15 Tyler Chapmann 6-1 170 Fr.
20 Forrest Richardson SE/DB 6-1 170 Sr.
21 Collin Roach DB 5-6 140 Fr.
22 Ryan Day RB/LB 5-7 170 Sr.
24 Andrew Fowler WR/DB 5-10 145 Sr.
25 Chris Smith WR/DB 6-0 150 Sr.
26 Hayden Daley RB/LB 5-8 190 Sr.
33 Jeremy Tuten 5-9 140 Sr.
40 Jason Quick RB/LB 5-11 170 Soph.
42 Bryan Lee Wade DB/TE 6-0 165 Sr.
44 Zack Newton LB/DE 6-1 170 Sr.
50 Shane Mixson OL/DL 5-9 170 Jr.
51 Tank Boni 5-10 280 Fr.
52 Michael Humbert OL/DL 5-9 195 Jr.
54 Tristen Blanton 5-10 160 Sr.
58 Vandy Clark 5-9 185 Fr.
60 Brodie Etheridge OL/DL 5-8 180 Jr.
61 Caleb Brister OL/LB 5-7 130 Soph.
62 Justin Malphrus 6-0 245 Sr.
65 Brennann Fleury OL/DL 6-0 175 Sr.
66 John Padgett OL/DL 6-1 175 Sr.
68 Nick Kieffer OL/DL 6-1 210 Sr.
70 Jesse McKenzie OL/DL 6-0 260 Soph.
72 Carson Boyles 6-11 225 Fr.
74 Matt Spruill 6-2 185 Sr.
75 Jordan Hughes 6-2 225 Soph.
WHEN'S YOUR TEAM PREVIEW?
This is the second in a series of 10 high school football previews. The schedule:
Sunday, Aug. 12: Hilton Head Prep
Monday, Aug. 13: Thomas Heyward
Tuesday, Aug. 14: Hilton Head Christian
Wednesday, Aug. 15: Whale Branch
Thursday, Aug. 16: Bluffton
Sunday, Aug. 19: Beaufort Academy
Monday, Aug. 20: Ridgeland-Hardeeville
Tuesday, Aug. 21: Battery Creek
Wednesday, Aug. 22: Hilton Head Island High
Thursday, Aug. 23: Beaufort High