SCISA Class A playoffs: Thomas Heyward 20, Christian Academy 14, OT
Subheadline: Rebels win 8th straight, advance to semifinals
Thomas Heyward survived Friday night, and now the Rebels advance to a SCISA state football semifinal.
Playing the second half without leading rusher J.R. Patterson, who was sidelined with a left elbow injury sustained in the first half, Thomas Heyward rallied for a 20-14 overtime win over visiting Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach in a Class A first-round playoff game.
After the Rebels’ defense stopped the Saints on a fourth-and-1 attempt on Christian Academy’s first overtime possession, THA quarterback Logan Thomas ran 5 yards up the middle for the winning score.
The Rebels (9-2), a No. 1 seed, advance to a state semifinal at home against Pee Dee next Friday. They have won eight straight games.
Thomas Heyward trailed 14-7 in the fourth quarter, but tied the game on an 11-play, 52-yard drive that culminated in Joseph Gibson diving on a fumble in the end zone. C.J. Cleland’s extra point tied the score 14-14 with 3:15 remaining.
River Pender, who had 23 yards rushing on the drive (58 overall) and helped the Rebels gain momentum in the quarter, lost the ball just before the goal line, but Gibson jumped on the ball to save the drive.
Christian Academy (6-4), a No. 4 seed, drove to Thomas Heyward’s 19-yard line with 4.9 seconds remaining in regulation, but the Saints’ 36-yard field goal attempt fell short.
The Saints had the first overtime possession — starting from the 10-yard line — and reach the 1-yard line, but they fumbled the snap on fourth down and failed to gain a yard.
On the Rebels’ possession, Pender ran 5 yards before Thomas called a trap and spun his way into the end zone for the clinching touchdown.
Thomas finished with 81 yards rushing on 12 carries – 10 attempts coming in the second half. He was also 4-of-8 passing for 55 yards.
“Not having J.R. is a big loss, but it’s the next-man-up mentality,” Thomas said.
Patterson entered the game with 1,645 rushing yards. His status for the semifinal will be determined next week, coach Nic Shuford said.
“Getting Logan going in the running game helped us open everything else up,” Shuford said.
Christian Academy, which had five turnovers, took the lead early. It recovered a squib kick to begin the game and scored on an 8-play, 51-yard drive, capped by Brandon McCauley’s 22-yard TD pass to Jalen Matthews.
After a Saints turnover, Thomas fired a 26-yard scoring pass to Dalton Steedley to tie it 7-7.
Christian Academy lost a fumble on THA’s 17-yard line in the second quarter, but a Rebels turnover led to a Christian Academy 16-yard touchdown pass from McCauley to John Sessums that put CA ahead 14-7.
Gibson, Zach Bond and Bryce Tillotson had fumble recoveries for THA. Bond (27 total tackles) also had an interception.
The Rebels are looking to advance to a state championship game for the first time since 2012 when they lost the Class AA final to Hilton Head Prep.
Shuford said being home next week is an advantage. Last season THA lost in the playoffs at Pee Dee, 42-35.
“Not being on a bus for 3½ hours, staying on normal routine here, that is a huge advantage,” he said.
This story has been updated with statistics.