Coastal Carolina freshmen Bryce Carpenter and Jaivon Heiligh had a high school reunion Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The two set records last season as teammates at Venice High in Florida, and they combined on Coastal’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 49-15 loss to South Carolina.
Carpenter hit Heiligh on an 8-yard TD pass on a quick out in the left side of the end zone to pull Coastal within 42-12 at the time. They also connected on a 13-yard completion, accounting for Carpenter’s two completions in five pass attempts.
“They’ve completed a lot of passes together. They won a state championship in Florida and they obviously have a connection,” CCU offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell said.
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Carpenter (6-1, 205) is the reigning Mr. Football in Florida after throwing for 3,053 yards and 42 touchdowns and rushing for 1,274 yards and 22 TDs last season. Heiligh (6-2, 195) set Florida state records with 131 receptions, 2,359 receiving yards and 32 receiving TDs as a senior and holds the state record for career receptions with 252.
“He’ll continue to get better and I think you’ll see more of him as we go into the season,” Chadwell said of Heiligh.
Carpenter (6-1, 205) is listed as one of senior starting QB Kilton Anderson’s primary backups and entered the game during CCUs second drive for a couple plays, handing off on an end-around to Malcolm Williams and losing two yards on a quarterback draw from the USC 8-yard line.
He reentered after Anderson took a big hit on a pass attempt in the fourth quarter. He took over with a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line and threw the TD on second down. He finished the game at QB, lost three yards on two carries and missed a possible touchdown with an overthrow.
“We’ll try to use him. He’s got some skills. He’s still learning but we’re going to try to use him in some certain things,” Chadwell said of Carpenter. “. . . You’ll probably see him in situations as he continues to get better. He can run and he throws solid but he doesn’t know the offense completely yet, so we’re trying to give him things he feels comfortable with and then continue to develop that package.”
Coastal played without senior punter and kicker Evan Rabon of Florence, who missed the game because of recurring back problems.
Rabon was expected to be the team’s starting punter for the fourth consecutive year and starting place-kicker for the second season.
“It’s simply a matter of his back. If his back feels good by like Wednesday or Thursday the answer is [he’ll play],” Coastal coach Joe Moglia said about Rabon’s possible return to the lineup next Saturday. “If his back is kind of tweaked, we don’t want to rush that early in the season when we can have him for the rest of the season. So we’re not going to push that.”
In Rabon’s absence, freshman kicker Massimo Biscardi of Downington, Pa., made all three of his field goal attempts of 39, 45 and 27 yards.
Sophomore Charles Ouverson punted four times and averaged 40 yards per punt. He had one good opportunity to pin the Gamecocks inside their 20, and his punt from the USC 38 landed around the 5-yard line but bounced into the end zone just ahead of a diving teammate trying to keep the ball in play.
Rabon has been one of the Chants’ most reliable players over the past couple seasons.
“He hasn’t done anything to lose that job. But there’s always a competition,” Moglia said. “If he is ready to go soon it’s his job. If he’s not ready to go for several weeks, that could be a different story depending on how the other guys end up performing. But Evan’s a leader for us, he has done a good job. We’re looking forward to him coming back, but our priority is his safety.”
Redshirt freshman Myles Prosser is handling kickoff duties for Coastal.
The Chants didn’t give up any long kick or punt returns to South Carolina’s dangerous returners, including Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards. “I think in special teams we held our own and they have outstanding special teams at South Carolina,” Moglia said.
Back in the booth
Chadwell spent Saturday’s game in a booth on the top level of Williams-Brice Stadium, where he believes he is in a better position to call a game offensively.
He was on the sideline all last season as the interim head coach while Moglia received treatment for an ailment and took the season off.
“It allows him to fix the details on the go and really see the whole entire defense,” Anderson said. “When he was on the sideline he’s asking guys what they’re seeing on the field, and stuff like that, and some of these guys didn’t know exactly how this offense is supposed to work.
“So having him up there in the box, being able to communicate with him, with what we’re seeing, it allows us to really cue in on the small details and figure out a better game plan to compete.”
Anderson completed all but two of his 13 pass attempts, though for only 91 yards.
“We wanted to try our best to try to protect him. They’re a very good pass rushing team, a very good defense,” Chadwell said. “So we tried to do some quick hitters. Then when we were going to take some shots we had some chances, had some bigger plays. . . . We called two or three and every one of them we got sacked on.”
The temperature in Columbia reached 96 with a heat index well over 100 degrees on Saturday, according to accuweather.com, but Coastal players say their play wasn’t necessarily impacted by the heat.
Moglia has said he believes this year’s team is the best conditioned team he has had in his seven years at CCU.
“It didn’t feel as hot as we had thought it was going to be,” linebacker Silas Kelly said. “I was expecting to die, honestly. People talk about how hot Columbia is and everything, but we got out here and it felt pretty good.”
Coastal’s coaches and players did not fault the team’s effort for the lopsided score, and believe that could pay dividends later in the season against a different level of competition.
“You can’t necessarily feel good about it because we don’t train all summer, all spring, all year just to come in here and lose,” Anderson said. “We believe in each other, we believe in ourselves that we can compete against anyone in the country. That’s our game plan every week. We want to compete.
“But I think the way our guys competed and worked and never game up through four quarters is something to be proud of. And I think that’s the kind of team you want to keep building on because that’s a team that’s never going to give up and they’re going to continue to strive for greatness.”