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DALZELL -- Thomas Heyward Academy's Ryan Day made sure that Friday was a bad day for the Thomas Sumter Academy varsity football team, accounting for five touchdowns, three 2-point conversion runs and two interceptions in a 50-7 Rebel victory at General Field.
With the win, Thomas Heyward moves to 12-1 and advances to next Saturday's SCISAA Class 2-A state championship game against Hilton Head Christian Academy.
Day rushed 17 times for 239 yards and four touchdowns, on runs of 1, 63, 25 and 56 yards, and returned one of his interceptions 35 yards for another score. A jack of all trades, Day even dropped back for a quick-kick on the Rebels' only punt of the night.
"He is very good, but they block. They block really well," said Thomas Sumter head coach Troy Kessinger, whose team closed out another Region I championship season with a 7-5 record. "He wasn't running over 11 people, trust me, but I'll be honest with you, they've done it the right way. ... It's a great group, and they deserve to go where they're going. Day is a good player, but they've got a lot of other ones. They've got the potential to win it, so good luck to them."
For Kessinger, the key to the game was his team's inability to get anything going offensively against the Rebel defense. While Thomas Heyward was building a 30-0 halftime lead, Thomas Sumter managed just three first downs, with two coming in the last two minutes of the half, and 109 yards total offense.
The Generals fumbled the ball away on the second play of the game, but Shane Bishop grabbed the first of his two interceptions against Rebel quarterback J.D. Tuten. TSA failed to get a first down, setting up an 11-play, 50-yard drive that resulted in Thomas Heyward's first score of the night, Day's 1-yard run.
Things didn't get much better for the General offense in the second half. While the Generals did manage six first downs, that still amounted to just 110 yards total offense, including 41 yards on the final five rushes of the game. By contrast, Thomas Heyward's offensive efforts yielded a total of 384 yards.
"We knew going in that we had to keep the ball, we had to score some points and keep the ball," Kessinger said. "We didn't do it on offense, and that to me was really the game. ... Yeah, they were going to score some points -- that's what they do -- but we needed to keep the ball from them and we just didn't do a good enough job of it."
TSA's only score of the night came at the 4:12 mark of the third quarter as Brantly Gray carried it in from one yard out, with John Luke Shumacher adding the point-after conversion kick. Gray's scoring run capped a 4-play, 53-yard run that included two passes from Bishop to Kevin Lewis for 46 yards.
Other scores for the Rebels came on a 35-yard pass from Tuten to Bryan Lee Wade and a 15-yard Zach Belger run.