If Thomas Heyward Academy’s football fortunes rise and fall with its senior influence, this could be a very promising year for the Rebels.
Twelve seniors – fully one-third of coach Nic Shuford’s roster – are back in hopes of taking the Rebels on a deep SCISA playoff run not seen since they were in middle school.
“It’s been building to this,” acknowledged Shuford, in his eighth year at his alma mater. “This is a good senior class, mixed in with some good underclassmen that are ready to start playing.”
The Rebels have been on a bit of a roller coaster as they’ve cycled through the past four graduating classes. A strong group of upperclassmen propelled THA to the SCISA Class 1A final in 2012, losing an all-Lowcountry clash against Hilton Head Christian.
The Rebels made it back to the playoffs in 2013, then slumped when Shuford had to break in virtually an entirely new roster. Last year brought a 6-6 mark and first-round playoff exit.
“We thought we might have had a chance last year,” Shuford said. “Some things just didn’t go our way. We had some guys beat up at the end of the year and it just didn’t work out. I’m sure it didn’t leave a good taste in their mouths.”
Quarterback Logan Thomas enters his third season at the controls of THA’s spread offense, though the Rebels must replace their top rusher (Anthony Sanders) and receiver (Collin Roach) from last year.
Thomas, a junior, threw for 1,363 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and has impressed Shuford with his growth as a pocket passer.
“He looks good,” Shuford said. “Based on the scrimmages we’ve had, he’s doing a real good job of moving around the pocket and buying some time.”
Spencer Hexamer, a wideout last year, is shifting over to the backfield to become the Rebels’ primary runner. That still leaves seniors Bret Mixson and Blake Bannon to stretch defenses on the outside.
“We’re able to (move Hexamer) because we have some good guys at the receiver position right now,” Shuford said. “We’re trying to see how everybody’s going to fit.”
The defense will be anchored by defensive tackle Trey Shaffer, who led the team with three sacks a year ago. Justin Davis and Zach Bond are a solid linebacking tandem, and the secondary can mix the talents of Mixson, Bannon and Hexamer.
Thomas Heyward Academy Rebels
REGION: SCISA Class 1A, Region 2
COACH: Nic Shuford (eighth year, 45-34)
2015 RECORD: 6-6 (3-2 SCISA 2-1A).
PLAYOFFS: Lost to Dillon Christian in SCISA 1A first round
KEY RETURNERS: QB Logan Thomas, RB/S Spencer Hexamer, WR/DB Bret Mixson, WR/DB Blake Bannon, OL/LB Justin Davis, OL/DL Trey Shaffer
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: A veteran squad gets the payoff, as Thomas continues to grow as a QB with a trio of senior receivers to choose from. Though the Rebels might take some lumps early, the region slate gives them a chance to close with a late run.
- Aug. 19: at Ridgeland-Hardeeville, 7:30 p.m.
- Aug. 26: vs. Hilton Head Prep, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 2: at St. Andrew's, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 9: at Bethesda Academy, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 16: vs. Calhoun Academy, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 23: at John Paul II, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 30: at Hilton Head Christian, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 7: vs. Williamsburg Academy, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 14: at Dorchester Academy, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 21: vs. Palmetto Christian, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 28: vs. Colleton Prep, 7:30 p.m.