The Thomas Sumter Academy football team came off their bye hungry for their first win last week.
Quarterback Noah Steele-Allen did everything in his power to make sure they left Friday's matchup with Palmetto Christian satisfied.
The senior signal caller did a little bit of everything, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns to go with 182 passing yards in a 36-26 victory. In the process, he earned recognition as the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week. Steele-Allen was grateful for the TSA community that supported him on the way to the honor.
"It's a big thing for me because of where I came from originally at Lakewood and the change of environment and the people around me," Steele-Allen said of the support.
Thomas Sumter head coach Brannon Tidwell has seen his quarterback take some huge strides during the last two seasons and was proud to see all of the pieces fall into place against Palmetto Christian.
"He's a talented player, and you could see that all summer in the seven-on-sevens, and then he went up to Erskine and got that offer there. He's put on 30 pounds in the weight room, and he's a very smart football player. It's been really us finding what fits his talents the best," Tidwell said. "I think we've done that with him in the running game and some passes that are down the field passes that are more comfortable for him. He's just really taken that the last couple of weeks, and he's getting better each week."
The Generals had the week off before the matchup with Palmetto Christian and spent a lot of time and energy trying to fix some of the details that slowed them down early in the season.
"Our team was really focused; we knew we had to win if we wanted to make the playoffs," the senior said. "We just went out there and had a good time at practice, and we went out there and knew we were going to win."
Steele-Allen has gotten a little more involved in the rushing attack this season and had one of his best performances on Friday. He was able to use his legs to keep defenses honest, which opened up some passing lanes downfield.
"Last year, with the receivers we had in Landin Blackwell and Gatlin Kimbro, I didn't really have a running game behind them. It was just me passing the ball," Steele-Allen said. "This year, with me running the ball, it's opened up the passing lanes because they have to respect the run, as well."
Palmetto Christian tried to bring some heat against the Generals, but TSA was ready for it, running past some aggressive defensive linemen.
"Their D-line was really aggressive," Steele-Allen said. "The running backs with Ryan and Jordan running through the tackles gave me open lanes to run."
Steele-Allen didn't do it all by himself, as Ryan Gregory ran for 90 yards and two touchdowns, while Jordan Tillman added a score and 97 yards. The key was making the Palmetto Christian defense hesitate because they didn't know which General had the football.
"When you have a three-headed monster back there where you have three guys who can have it at any time, that opens things up in our passing game with Sam Matthews and Sam Petrauschke," Tidwell said. "Just to have more things where we can catch the ball and open our offense up."
It wasn't a perfect game for TSA, as injuries really started to hit as the contest wore on, especially on defense. Steele-Allen was proud of the way his teammates adjusted to new spots and continued to make plays on their way to victory.
"Even with positions that people aren't really sure about, we're really aggressive and know what we're doing because we're really well coached. That helps when people haven't played O-line or D-line before," Steele-Allen said, specifically noting his brother, Aiden. "My little brother has never played offensive line in his life, and he did pretty well."
Steele-Allen hopes this was the first of many for the Generals as they hit the home stretch. They'll start with a trip to two-win Spartanburg Christian on Friday.
"It's awesome. You can just walk around the school and the looks in players' eyes and the smiles on their faces," the QB said. "They're a lot more happy and more energetic. We just need to keep doing well in practice and stay focused on football."
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