The road leads to Jacksonville, Fla., for the Coastal Carolina football team.
Following their 58-21 win at Campbell on Wednesday, the Chanticleers loaded onto several buses and headed to Jacksonville for an unspecified amount of time.
The 100-plus players, coaches, football staff, family members and even some pets will stay in hotel rooms while Hurricane Florence rages through the Grand Strand.
The Chants had to evacuate the campus Tuesday morning and won’t be able to return until the campus reopens, which could be several days. They hope the campus isn’t damaged.
Coastal’s next game is 7 p.m. next Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette.
“If school’s open, we’ll come back home; if not we’ll stay in Jacksonville, Fla., and we’ll try to get ready for Louisiana down there,” Chants head coach Joe Moglia said.
The Chants have lined up practice locations, though they don’t have a practice schedule.
Those with the team couldn’t leave their pets behind, so there are a number of dogs making the trip that all are being transported on a single bus, away from people with dog allergies, including Moglia and sophomore defensive end Jeffrey Gunter.
“We’ve got the entire staff and their families with us,” Moglia said. “What I didn’t account for was the all the dogs. We’ve got plenty of dogs that made this trip, but at least everybody is safe.”
The team doesn’t know how long it will be on its impromptu field trip or how long the players will be around each other without a break.
“You just can’t look at the negative side of it,” grad student and quarterback Kilton Anderson said. “Yeah, we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other, and yeah, we’re going to want to pull each other’s hairs out. But we’re lucky enough to travel somewhere safely, and a lot of people and families don’t have that luxury.
“If we have to practice there, we have to practice there. It’s not going to slow us down. We have to continue to go win and perform at our highest level.”
The Chants will be playing a lot of video games, including Madden NFL and NBA 2K. “I’m the best 2K player on the team, by the way, let that be known,” Gunter said. “When it comes to Madden, we always get a little tournament going. Everyone’s got a gaming system. I know I’ve got mine in my bag.”
There will be some Fortnite competitions, as well, and Gunter said sophomore linebacker Silas Kelly might be the player to beat in that video game.
Gunter expects the trip to help the team continue to bond.
“We love each other,” he said. “Those are my guys. I’ll spend all day with them. Those are my best friends.”
Moglia also believes the team can use the trip as a learning experience.
“What I want them to do is appreciate the fact that while this may be very, very inconvenient, there’s a much bigger picture here,” Moglia said. “There is a potential regional disaster at risk, so what I want is for our guys to understand that and be appreciative enough that we’re safe.”
Molgia discussed the situation with Maria Bartiromo on Friday morning on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria”.
In addition to losing a home game with the relocation of the game to Campbell, the Chants also didn’t get to play in front of what usually is a solid crowd at Barker-Lane Stadium.
The announced attendance was 2,047, and included only a smattering of Coastal fans in the visitor bleachers.
Campbell has averaged a sellout in each of the past two seasons at its 5,500-seat stadium and drew 5,624 for its season opener against Division II Chowan.
But the game was in the afternoon on a weekday and Wednesday classes were canceled at Campbell, so many students had left the area.
On the board
Coastal Carolina has 37 receptions as a team through three games. Coastal’s only catch of the season by a tight end was made Wednesday by true freshman Isaiah Likely from Malden, Mass., who is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.
He caught a pass from Anderson while open in the right flat and gained 18 yards.
The tight end position has been seldom used in the passing game over the past three seasons. Just five receptions for 49 yards were recorded by tight ends last year.
Starting tight end Shadell Bell, a junior who transferred from Clemson prior to the season, is still without one.
Breach of etiquette?
On the final play of the game, with the Chants leading 52-21, redshirt freshman Baden Pinson scored a touchdown for CCU on a 6-yard run.
The score resulted in some murmuring through the crowd in the stadium, and brought up the old debate about the merits of giving backups some legitimate playing time versus not embarrassing an opponent.
The Chants blocked a field goal with 4:49 to play, then drove 83 yards in eight plays for the score with reserves in the game, including Pinson and Chance Thrasher at quarterback.
Campbell coach Mike Minter, who played safety for the Carolina Panthers for 10 years, did not broach the topic following the game, but Moglia did.
“The way I feel about it right now, I feel bad about it and I want to call their coach and actually say I didn’t mean to do that,” Moglia said. “No. 1, it was the end of the game. No. 2, they did try to score the points when they were down near our end zone as well, and that’s okay.
“Our guys have gone through a tremendous amount of adversity. We had a lot of guys who had to leave home, that had to pick up. They found this out at the last moment’s notice, we took the team with us. We had our substitutes in the game. That was our fourth string quarterback handing the ball off to our third- or fourth-string back. The fact we gave them a chance to get the ball, those guys may not get another carry the rest of the year and I made that decision. In hindsight, I didn’t expect to score a touchdown, but I’d rather have taken a knee. If I had to do it all over again, I’d take a knee.”