Tyler Chisholm could see this coming. The entire Hilton Head Christian Academy football team could, too, for that matter.
The Eagles are returning to the state championship game for the sixth time in seven years. Waiting for them is region rival Thomas Heyward Academy, which Hilton Head Christian edged in a thriller, 20-13, last month.
"We know they're coming for us and we've got to be ready for them," Chisholm said. "I've already dreamt about it. It's going to be huge. It's going to be crazy."
Chisholm helped punch his team's ticket to the SCISAA Class 2-A final Friday night, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in the Eagles' 42-26 win over Florence Christian. Thomas Heyward, meanwhile, earned its first trip to the finals since 1992 with a 50-7 pounding at Thomas Sumter.
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"Since we beat them I knew that we were going to likely play them in the state championship," said Brad Meccariello, who grabbed a pair of touchdown passes against FCA while totaling 10 tackles on defense. "It's been on our minds."
Hilton Head Christian made its reservation to the championship early. The Eagles scored on each of their first four possessions against Florence Christian (7-4), including Chisholm's 69-yard touchdown gallop on the first play from scrimmage. He added a 21-yard score three drives later to give the Eagles (11-1) a two-possession lead.
The senior had been sidelined the last two games after suffering a bruised clavicle against Palmetto Christian.
"He came out with a vengeance," coach Tommy Lewis said. "It was really good to see. ... For Tyler to get back in the flow of things and the offense really start putting it together, that was good."
Quarterback Caleb Lewis handled the rest, as the sophomore took advantage of Florence Christian's cover 3 look with three big scoring strikes.
The first came with the Eagles clinging to an early 7-6 lead, as Zach Polk plucked a high throw out of the air on a crossing route before racing 65 yards for a touchdown. Meccariello, meanwhile, netted a pair of scores on easy seam routes down the middle from 49 and 20 yards out.
"That was definitely the best we've played as a collective unit," said the younger Lewis, who finished 7 of 10 for 181 yards and three touchdowns. "You score four drives in a row and execute. It wasn't like we had a couple bad plays. We consistently moved the ball down the field."
The early barrage helped the Eagles stave off a pesky Florence Christian team that scored on each of its first two possessions, as quarterback Adam Hill snuck it in from the 1 before finding James McClary for a 42-yard score on the next possession.
"We just couldn't stop them, and that was the main problem," Florence Christian coach Neil Minton said. "We wanted to control the clock better. But once we got down a little bit and we realized we couldn't stop them, I had to take a (few) more chances than we wanted to."
To a man, this was Hilton Head Christian's best offensive performance to date. The Eagles will need to keep that up to stop the now-healthy Rebels (12-1), who are averaging 45.5 points per game this season. Thomas Heyward played much of its last game against Hilton Head Christian without star quarterback J.D. Tuten at the helm.
"I was hoping that we would see them again," Tommy Lewis said. "I figured Thomas Heyward was one team that was going to be in the state championship from the beginning of the year. ... I've always felt like it was everybody else battling for that other spot."
The only question now becomes where the game will be played. All three SCISAA finals are scheduled for next Saturday at Benedict's Charlie W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia, but with two local teams playing one another, the league may decide to shift the matchup to a neutral location, such as Bluffton. A similar situation occurred in 2007, when the Eagles faced off against Hilton Head Preparatory School, but that was before SCISAA signed with Benedict to host its title games at the college.
"My vote is going to go with the kids," said Tommy Lewis, who expected to hear a decision on location today. " ... Whatever the team says, that's what I'm going to throw my weight behind. If they want the trip to Columbia and the whole experience of playing in a college stadium, then that's what I want to do.
"Certainly playing locally with a huge crowd would be a lot of fun."
Hilton Head Christian 42, Florence Christian 26
Florence Christian 12 0 0 14 -- 26
Hilton Head Christian 21 14 7 0 -- 42
HHCA--Tyler Chisholm 69 rush (Chisholm kick), 11:27.
FCA--Adam Hill 1 rush (Andrew Dempewolfe kick failed), 7:06.
HHCA--Zach Polk 65 catch from Caleb Lewis (Chisholm kick), 5:26.
FCA--James McClary 42 catch from Hill (pass failed), 2:22.
HHCA--Chisholm 21 rush (Chisholm kick), 0:12.
HHCA--Brad Meccariello 49 catch from Lewis (Chisholm kick), 10:19.
HHCA--Jamario Williams 6 rush (Chisholm kick), 0:31.
HHCA--Meccariello 20 catch from Lewis (Chisholm kick), 8:42.
FCA--James McClary 80 rush (Gordon Mattinson rush), 8:54.
FCA--Austin Drummond 6 rush (Dempewolfe kick), 1:28.