Thomas Heyward eager for 2nd chance against Hilton Head Christian

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High School Football

Thomas Heyward eager for 2nd chance against Hilton Head Christian

Region rivals meet in SCISAA state championship today
By MIKE McCOMBS
mmccombs@islandpacket.com
Published Saturday, November 17, 2012   |  547 Words  |  

Thomas Heyward Academy star running back Ryan Day confessed last week before the Rebels' 50-7 rout of Thomas Sumter in the SCISAA Class 2-A semifinals.

He was looking ahead.

Not only was he looking ahead, but he had been for some time. And often.

"All the time," Day said of the Rebels' only loss this season, 20-13 at the hands of Hilton Head Christian on Oct. 12. "Ever since the loss, yes, it's impossible. I think about it every day."

The Eagles knocked Rebel quarterback JD Tuten out early and used a successful fake punt, a late touchdown and a game-ending defensive stand to put an end to the Rebels' chances of a perfect season.

But the Eagles (11-1) still didn't stop Day.

The senior running back, who has more than 2,000 yards and 40 touchdowns on the season, ran for 234 yards on 36 carries and a pair of touchdowns, the second a 41-yarder that gave the Rebels a 13-12 lead late in the third quarter.

It's hard to blame the Rebels (12-1) for thinking things might have been different with a healthy Tuten.

"You've got to think about it. You have to look at it," Tuten said before last week's game. "They put me out on the third play of the game, and we've been struggling ever since.

"It would be a different game. It takes all 11 guys to tackle Ryan Day."

They should find out tomorrow. Tuten and coach Nic Shuford said last week that Tuten was getting close to 100 percent (though he might not get there as long as he's playing).

The Rebels used him primarily on offense and rested him on defense, where he is valuable as the Rebels' top pass defender.

Bryan Lee Wade, the Rebels' top receiver and other cornerback, said that having Tuten locked down on the opposing team's top receiver gives him and the rest of the defense much more flexibility.

But whether or not Tuten lines up on defense against the Eagles today remains to be seen.

Coming into the season, the Thomas Heyward seniors, led by Tuten, Day and lineman Nick Kiefer, pushed the Rebels to work harder than ever before in the weight room.

The goal was to do what they couldn't do last year -- push through and win a state championship. They saw last year's seniors devastated after their 28-7 playoff loss to Thomas Sumter and were determined not to suffer the same fate.

"They wanted to get bigger, faster, stronger," Shuford said earlier this fall. "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."

Despite a bump in the road the last time the Rebels face the Eagles, they have succeeded in getting where they wanted to be. Now they've just got to finish it.