LEXINGTON, Va. — Just about everything had gone right for Coastal Carolina on Saturday afternoon until junior left guard Jamey Cheatwood crumbled to the ground on a seemingly innocent play with a little more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Cheatwood was down for several minutes as trainers tended to him on the field before he was eventually helped off while favoring his right leg, and once the Chanticleers’ 34-7 win at VMI was over, coach Joe Moglia revealed the bad news.
Early indications are that the 6-foot-5, 330-pound three-year starter likely sustained an injured anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, Moglia said, and while the severity of the injury was not known right after the game, the coaching staff seemed prepared for the likelihood Cheatwood will miss the rest of the season.
“We’ll know in the next 24-48 hours,” Moglia said. “He’s an outstanding player for us, so certainly that would be a blow. So like anytime somebody goes down, somebody else has got to rise up and make up for the loss. It’s going to hurt us to lose Jamey, but it’s going to be an opportunity for other guys on the team to be able to play and show what they can do.”
It’s an especially big blow for the Chants (3-4, 1-1 Big South) as they have produced their two best rushing efforts of the season over the last two weeks while seeming to find another dimension to their offense. After rushing for 201 yards last week against a stout Stony Brook defense, Coastal went for 331 in 49 carries (6.8 yards per attempt) Saturday. A second-team All-Big South selection each of the last two years at left tackle before moving to guard this season, Cheatwood was one of the team’s top performers up front.
Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said 6-foot-2, 260-pound sophomore Kevin Hart, who had been rotating in on the other side with sophomore right guard Mo Ashley, would likely fill Cheatwood’s spot in the starting lineup. This is the first significant injury to the offensive line, which has used the same five starters every week of the season.
“That’s huge. He’s a staple in there,” Patenaude said of Cheatwood. “He’s one of the huge reasons we’ve been able to run the ball like that, and we’re just going to have to go back and Kevin Hart’s going to have to step in and play for him. Kevin’s been playing very well. … He’s got to take a bigger role, and we’ve got to get a couple of the younger guys ready to go. That’s football. It’s very disappointing that you’re in a situation where you’re up by a few scores and you get a freak injury and you lose a guy, but that’s kind of football.”
Watkins makes his mark
Most Coastal fans probably hadn’t heard Tyler Watkins’ name before Saturday, but he made himself known early in the third quarter with a blocked punt that sophomore teammate Lorenzo Boyles returned for a 4-yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead at the time.
The junior linebacker started his collegiate career at Presbyterian, though he did not play in a game last season. Due to personal reasons, Watkins decided he needed a change of scenery and decided to walk on at Coastal. It took five games for his eligibility to be cleared before he made his Chants debut last week against Stony Brook, and on Saturday he got the payoff for his patience.
“Coach has been telling us all week, he said, ‘We’re going to get one,’ ” Watkins said of his big play. “He told me to go hard, hit that outside shoulder of the left shield and I just saw the punter stepping outside so I got up under him, swam, put my hands up and blocked it. I wish I could have had the scoop-and-score for six, but I’m glad my teammate got it. …
“It’s been a long grind transferring from PC and stuff and getting cleared, so it’s good to finally get out there and have a defining moment.”
Watkins also described the tough decision to leave Presbyterian and start anew.
“My roommate passed away in the spring, and I decided it wasn’t where I wanted to be anymore,” he said. “It was rough. I had a lot of good friends there, a lot of boys that I still was very close with and a lot of people that treated me really well, but they all supported my transition and I felt like this was the best place for me to be. And so far it’s turned out pretty good.”
Henderson sets mark
Senior Tre Henderson had been waiting a couple weeks to move atop the Coastal record books for career kick return yards after moving in range of Arthur Sitton’s mark, but he didn’t have to wait long Saturday.
Henderson took the opening kick 21 yards to surpass Sitton’s previous record of 1,051 career kickoff return yards and will now have four more games to add to his total.
“It’s good. I wish I would have got it on a score or something special, but anything to help the team,” Henderson said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to just help the team however I can and kick returning is something I take pride in. And my team, they do a great job of blocking. I feel like it was my fault today, I feel like I should have scored on that first one. After that, the defense did a great job and we didn’t get no more. I’m glad I broke it here, but I’ve got something exciting for the rest of the season.”
Senior quarterback Aramis Hillary had a rather quiet day while completing 11-of-19 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. In so doing, though, he stretched his program-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception to 159 attempts. The streak stretches back to the third game of the season against Eastern Kentucky. … Sophomore Alex Catron’s 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was his first make since that Eastern Kentucky game. But it was also only his second attempt in that span, and he is now 7-of-9 on field goals for the season. … Junior kicker Grant Clayton, meanwhile, got his first try this season and converted from 29 yards later in the fourth.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.