GREENVILLE — Senior quarterback Aramis Hillary labored taking his shoulder pads and jersey off outside the locker room Saturday night, and when he finally pulled himself free he let out an audible sigh and the only words that came to mind after what he and his Coastal Carolina teammates had just experienced.
“That was crazy,” he said. “That was crazy.”
And really, there was no better description for what happened Saturday night at Furman.
The Chanticleers needed a game-tying field goal as time expired and then three overtimes to escape Paladin Stadium after the hosts pulled off a stunning fourth-quarter rally behind a true freshman backup quarterback. Furman’s missed two-point conversion at the end of the teams’ frenetic finish finally let Coastal breathe easy and celebrate a 47-45 victory that will surely go down as one of the wilder games in program history.
“I think that really just showed heart between both teams because either one of us could have just laid down and let the other one win,” Chants junior receiver Matt Hazel said. “But that game was … I can’t put it into words, really.”
Rookie quarterback Reese Hannon, who had not thrown a collegiate pass before Saturday night, recovered from a shaky start after replacing injured senior starter Dakota Derrick in the second quarter and led Furman on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives as the hosts took their first lead with 40 seconds remaining. But the game was just getting started at that point.
Coastal (2-0) had opened with a 10-0 first-quarter lead and led 17-6 after three quarters before Hannon seemed to find his confidence and started marching the Paladins (0-2) down the field. With the rain falling steadily in the fourth quarter, he connected with Will King on a 15-yard pass on fourth-and-two early in the period to get Furman down to the CCU 27. He followed with a 12-yard strike to King on the other side and soon finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown hook-up in the end zone to Ryan Culbreath with 7:56 remaining.
The Coastal defense would answer quickly as junior linebacker Mike McClure intercepted Hannon’s two-point conversion pass and raced 100 yards down the left sideline for the longest play in program history. Those two points gave the Chants a little extra breathing room while making it 19-12, and senior Jeremy Height returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to get Coastal moving again on the way to an eventual 35-yard field goal by sophomore Alex Catron to make it 22-12.
But that lead wouldn’t be enough.
“We knew it wasn’t over, but I think we did get kind of relaxed,” McClure said. “But that shows right there that you can’t get relaxed. When things get like that, you’ve got to keep grinding out till the clock hits all zeroes.”
That’s certainly what Furman did. Hannon led an 11-play, 67-yard drive to get the Paladins back in the end zone as he hit Jordan Snellings for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:59 remaining in regulation. Chants senior Dontavais Johnson blocked the extra point, leaving the score at 22-18, but Furman then recovered the ensuing onside kick as King – who had made a critical mistake in the third quarter on a fumbled punt – grabbed the loose ball after Coastal touched it. And it was Hannon’s time again as he led the Paladins 50 plays in 1:17 and hit Culbreath for a 22-yard touchdown strike as the hosts took their first lead at 25-22 with 40 seconds left.
Then it was Coastal’s turn.
“We got the ball back with 40 seconds and it seemed like nobody wanted to give up,” Hillary said. “Usually a team just says, ‘Bump it, we did all we can, that’s it.’ But it seemed like the intensity on the sideline was better than ever right then and I knew when I looked into some of my teammates’ eyes, it was time to go. And we got the job done.”
Hillary wasted no time getting the Chants down the field with quick 20-yard completions to Hazel and freshman Tyrell Blanks. He nearly connected with junior DeMario Bennett in the end zone from 28 yards out, but Bennett couldn’t hold on to the ball. Instead, Catron delivered a 45-yard game-tying field goal as time expired to force overtime.
Both teams kept up the fireworks with touchdowns on their first overtime possessions. Coastal started inauspiciously as Hillary was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, but he the veteran quarterback came right back with a 35-yard completion to Hazel down to the 1. Height then rushed it in from one yard out as the Chants struck first.
Furman followed with a touchdown on its first overtime play as Hannon hit King on a 25-yard strike to tie it up. The Paladins then started the second overtime with another 25-yard score as Jerodis Williams rushed in to the end zone on the first play. And, fittingly, Coastal tied it again on the very next play as Hillary hit Hazel for a 25-yard strike that looked like it was going to be intercepted before threading past the defender.
With the scored tied at 39-39 after two overtimes, Hillary remained locked in and threw a beautiful 26-yard touchdown strike in the end zone to Bennett on the second play of the third extra session. And after a timeout, the Chants were forced go for two by overtime rules. Hillary pitched to Bennett, who caught the ball running left to right and raced into the end zone for a 47-39 lead.
Furman, which had won its last 12 home openers, scored again on its turn with a three-yard touchdown run by Hank McCloud, but after a timeout, Hannon’s two-point conversion pass to King was hauled in out of the back of the end zone to finally bring an end to one of the wildest games in Coastal Carolina football history.
“We didn’t want to give up,” said Hillary, who finished with a career-high 292 yards on 20-of-27 passing. “That’s one thing [offensive coordinator Dave] Patenaude, Coach Moglia, they’ve instilled in us going into the season. As soon as they got here, [they said] ‘Be a man, stand on your own two feet and take responsibility for your actions.’ It was time to go out there and make some plays. It was my time to go out there and make plays, and those guys did a good job making plays.”
It wasn’t as dominating as their season-opening win, but the Chants’ encore effort under Moglia was even more momentous.
“I was proud of the guys,” Moglia said. “And while we’ve got a lot of work to do, the reality is we’re going to enjoy this one. We did win, [we’re] 2-0 and we’re pleased with that.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.