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Holly Hill Academy Defeats Richard Winn 56-14 To Claim SCISA 8-Man Football Championship

Holly Hill Academy Defeats Richard Winn 56-14 To Claim SCISA 8-Man Football Championship


LEXINGTONHolly Hill Academy (13-0) knew it had to focus on ball control and defense to capture a state championship, and that was its focus Friday night at Northside Christian Academy’s Palmetto State Armory Field.

The Raiders rolled up 458 rushing yards, mostly on the backs of Zach Pelloni and Marion Breland, and held Richard Winn Academy to just nine first downs on their way to 56-14 8-Man state championship win over the Eagles.

“We knew it was going to be a battle in the trenches, they’ve got some big old boys,” said first year head coach Michael Nelson of Holly Hill Academy. “But we’ve got some big old boys too, and we knew if we could move their defensive line, if we could control the line of scrimmage, we were going to dominate this game.”

Pelloni had 227 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, while Breland had 204 yards on 17 carries. Both ran through wide holes torn out from the offensive front three of Carter Judy, Ramsey Norris, and Dyson Dantzler.

“Those two guys (Pelloni and Breland) will tell you that it was them who were opening all those holes for our running backs this year,” said Coach Nelson. “I’m just so proud of all these young men that worked their butts off and they deserve every ounce of this, and my staff, Tommy Breland, Eddie Judy, Seth Patrick, Billy Pelloni, David Walling, and Hanks Avenger; it’s all them. I’m just a small piece of this puzzle.”

Nelson himself is a big piece of the Holly Hill Academy puzzle. He is also the head volleyball coach and athletic director, and he also coaches both girl’s and boys’ basketball and assists with other sports throughout the year.

With the football team, which won five games last year and just one in 2018, the turnaround was all due to the veteran assistants and the kids themselves.

“You’ve got to surround yourself with good people,” said Coach Nelson. “You have to put yourself in a position where you trust people, and those people execute for you, and our staff did an incredible job this year.”

Holly Hill (13-0) won its first title since a Class A 11-man state championship. The Raiders claimed their last 8-Man state championship in 2007. The last three years of the program served as the springboard for this championship run.

“We have five seniors, and all those juniors and sophomores were getting their tails kicked when they were freshmen and sophomores two and three years ago,” Nelson said. “They played with a chip on their shoulder and they were hungry. I’m so proud of them.”

Richard Winn (10-1) was playing for its first championship since 2014. The Eagles dismissed Clarendon Hall 52-30 in the first round of the playoffs and topped defending state champion Andrew Jackson Academy 22-16 to get to the title game.

Quarterback Zack Taylor, who had 1,533 rushing and passing yards and 33 touchdowns going into Friday, injured his left shoulder against Andrew Jackson and was not 100 per cent.

Taylor had just three carries for 5 yards and passed for 142 yards. He also threw an interception that Breland returned 98 yards for a touchdown.

Taylor is also the team’s starting middle linebacker with 54 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Not having him 100 percent hurt the Eagles, said head coach Paul Brigman.

“He tried to play tonight, but he was not very effective,” said Coach Brigman. “It hurt us more on defense, probably. We just weren’t able to be effective. We had a couple of big players go out early in the game and we weren’t able to recover.”

The first half was all Holly Hill, with the help of an anemic Richard Winn offensive effort. The Eagles had just two first downs and Holly Hill limited them to eight net rushing yards on eleven attempts.

On the other side of the football, the Raiders rolled up 226 rushing yards on 32 carries, with Breland racking up 126 yards on 13 attempts.

Holly Hill got its train rolling when they took the opening onside kick off at midfield. Breland rushed for 44 yards on the 50-yard drive, and put the Raiders on the scoreboard at the 8:55 mark with a 16-yard touchdown run for the 6-0 lead. Pelloni’s conversion run failed.

Both of Richard Winn’s first downs came on their only scoring drive in the first half, which started with a recovered fumble at the Holly Hill 44-yard line. From there the Eagles drove 56 yards on 11 plays, getting their only score of the half on B Bakers’s 1-yard run and Taylor’s 2-point conversion pass to Dru Caldwell at the 1:08 to go in the first.

On Holly Hill’s possession that followed, Pelloni got the ball for most of the snaps. Pelloni’s 6 rushes for 38 yards included a 7-yard TD run on the 55-yard scoring drive that straddled the first and second quarters. Pelloni ran the ball in for the 2-point conversion to put the Raiders back on top 14-8.

Richard Winn’s next two possessions ended in punts, while Holly Hill got another score on Breland’s 60-yard touchdown sprint with 4:25 left in the first half. The 2-point conversion failed and Holly Hill walked off the field at intermission with a 20-8 lead.

Even though Richard Winn was down two possession at intermission, the Eagles had a fighting chance—if they could contain the Holly Hill rushing attack and begin to mount some drives in the second half.

“We really felt good at halftime,” said Coach Brigman. “We had not played well, but we felt like if we could get ourselves on track offensively, come out and score, that we could get right back in the ball game and put a little bit of pressure on them in the second half.”

That did not come to pass. Breland and Pelloni kept on running, and Richard Winn couldn’t keep up. Holly Hill outscored the Eagles 22-6 in the last five minutes of the third quarter..

Breland made it 26-8 with a 22-yard touchdown run at the 5:02 mark.

While Richard Winn cut that lead to 26-14 with Taylor’s 9-yard TD pass to Derek Branham a minute later, Pelloni scored from six- yards out and Breland added a 2-point conversion run to make it 34-14.

Two minutes later, Breland picked off a Taylor pass at the Holly-Hill 2-yard line and managed to run it back 98 yards for the final score of the third quarter. Crawford Thomas added another 2-point conversion to make it 42-14.

Pelloni scored from two yards out with 8:20 to go and Perrin Breland caught a Thomas pass in the end zone with 2:44 left to close out the scoring.

“They were a very physical team,” Brigman said. “They were a very deserving champion. We just never had momentum swing our way.”

Even though the Eagles fell in the final game, Brigman added that they have nothing to be ashamed of.

“That’s what we tried to impress to the kids,” he said. “It hurts tonight, but when we get some time to reflect on it, we’ll realize it was a great year. We did some things this year that we haven’t done in a long time at our school.”


Richard Winn       8          0          6          0          --          14

Holly Hill   6          14        22        14        --          56

First Quarter

H – Marion Breland 16 run (run fails) 8:55

R – B Baker 1 run (Dru Caldwell pass from Zack Taylor) 1:08

Second Quarter

H – Zach Pelloni 7 run (Pelloni run) 10:12

H – Marion Breland 60 run (run failed) 4:25


Third Quarter

H – Marion Breland 22 run (pass failed) 5:02

R – Derek Branahm 9 pass from Taylor (pass failed) 4:01

H – Pelloni 6 run (Marion Breland run) 3:26

H – Marion Breland 98 interception return (Crawford Thomas run) 1:14

Fourth Quarter

H – Pelloni 2 run (Tyler Wright run) 8:20

H – Perrin Breland pass from Thomas (run failed) 2:44



Richard Winn       Holly Hill

First Downs            9          20

Rushes-Yards         18-83   51-458

Passing Yards        142      66

Att-Com-Int           31-15-1            5-4-0

Fumbles-Lost         0-0       2-1

Penalties-Yards      5-45     5-45

Punts-Avg. 4-43.3  1-16.0 



RUSHING: Richard Winn – Zack Taylor 3-5, B Baker 8-30, Dru Caldwell 4-39, Derek Branham 1-13, Drew Spires 1-1, Jacob Chaisson 1-(-5). Holly Hill – Marion Breland 17-204, Zach Pelloni 25-227, Crawford Thomas 5-6, Tyler Wright 4-21.

PASSSING: Richard Winn – Zack Taylor 31-15-1. Holly Hill – Marion Breland 4-1-0, Crawford Thomas 1-1-0.

RECEIVING: Richard Winn – Derek Branham 4-25, B Baker 3-16, Gavin Douglas 4-48, Dru Caldwell 2-16, John Russell 1-11, Drew Spires 1-26. Holly Hill – Zach Pelloni 1-26, Harley Watkins 1-3, Perrin Breland 2-37.

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