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Coastal Carolina's Hillary continues progression
Junior quarterback Aramis Hillary backed up his encouraging season-opening effort with another steady performance Saturday night, passing for a career-high 220 yards in Coastal Carolina’s 20-3 win over Catawba.
Through two games, he has connected on 26 of 37 passes for a sterling 70.3-percent completion rate with no interceptions.
“Just knowing that all the offense has got my back is really what puts me at ease,” said Hillary, who had seen minimal game action over his first three collegiate seasons. “Those guys do a great job in practice, in the games. We talk all the time on and off the field. I’ve got a lot of confidence in them and a lot of trust in those playmakers and those five linemen we’ve got up front no matter who’s in there.”
Hillary, in his second year in the program after transferring from South Carolina, continued to share snaps with senior Jamie Childers, who drew the start against Catawba and completed 6-of-7 passes for 75 yards, and CCU coach David Bennett reiterated that he likes the two-quarterback system.
“We’re trying to roll them both, especially [with it being] hot and humid early in the year,” he said. “… We’re just trying to roll them and trust in both of them. We trust in both of them to play.”
Hillary’s highlight Saturday night was a perfectly-thrown 52-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to sophomore Matt Hazel in the first quarter as the Chants built a comfortable first-half lead.
After attempting just 25 passes over the last three seasons, Hillary seems to be settling in as a leader of the Chants’ offense.
“He’s been very vocal. Every day at practice, he has his one saying he likes to say – ‘He never took a day off because he knew it would pay off,’ ” sophomore receiver DeMario Bennett said. “So hopefully he’ll continue to work hard and get better by the week.”
Thomas big in return
Junior defensive end Chris Thomas missed the season opener while recovering from a high ankle sprain, but he looked healthy his return to the field Saturday night.
Thomas, one of the Chants’ key reserves along the defensive line, tallied a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. He finished last season with 4.5 tackles for loss while making eight starts.
“I’m so excited to be back,” Thomas said. “It’s not cool to sit on the sideline and watch everybody play. It’s not fun at all.”
WR Bennett expands role
As promised, DeMario Bennett was a more prominent part of the game plan Saturday night, hauling in three passes for 46 yards after making just one grab in his CCU debut last week.
“I’m more comfortable than I was in the spring because I’ve had more time to learn the plays,” he said. “The coaches were confident enough to put me in a lot this week, so hopefully I can keep making plays.”
Bennett, who transferred in the offseason from South Carolina, was declared ineligible for the season until the day before the season opener, but the Chants are hoping he can become a big part of the offense as the season goes along. One of the fastest players on the team, the talk in the spring was that he could provide the offense the kind of deep threat it has lacked in recent years.
More on cats and dogs
As David Bennett became a media sensation with the clip of his cats and dogs speech from his mid-week news conference replaying on ESPN and featured on national websites, his players took the opportunity to tease him a bit.
Thomas said the players gave him a collective “meow” before a team meeting Friday.
“He’s pretty funny,” Thomas said. “He’s a good coach. He tries to push us, inspire us to be tough and not worry about the little things. That’s cool. He’s a real cool coach.”
And as Hillary noted, the Chants’ are used to Bennett’s animated ways.
“We see that all the time, so to see that on ESPN was nothing new to us,” Hillary said. “That was just something that we see all the time.”
“That’s a slow media day,” Bennett said. “We told our players, I really don’t see the big deal. We talk like that every single day around here. That’s a normal day. …
“For Coastal Carolina University, I think that’s great exposure. [A friend] said his little daughter asked him, ‘Why is coach looking so crazy?’ So you know, you take the good and the bad.”
Junior linebacker Andrae Jacobs was in his Big South defensive player of the year form, leading the Chants with nine tackles and two tackles for loss. … Senior all-conference tight end David Duran hauled in three catches for a team-high 61 yards after going without a catch last week. … Coastal’s 13 net rushing yards were a single-game low for the program. The previous low was 40 yards against Liberty in 2009. … Junior running back Marcus Whitener (bruised ribs) did not play.
By Ryan Young, The Sun News