Coastal’s senior class looks to end on high note at home

ccufoot-hazelleapCoastal Carolina will honor this year’s senior football student-athletes 34 minutes prior to the Presbyterian contest, which is set for a 1 p.m. start on Nov. 16 and is the ninth-ranked Chanticleers’ final regular-season home game of 2013.

This year’s senior class includes: Travis Small, Mike McClure, DeMario Bennett, Brian Kass, Andrew Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Niccolo Mastromatteo, Bucky Kennedy, LaDarius Hawthorne, Johnnie Houston, Marcellus Hunter, Jeffery Salley, Jaz Strong, Arthur Kelley, Jamey Cheatwood, Drew Herring, Adrian Sullivan, Matt Hazel, Dominique Whiteside, Neal Spivey (Mgr), Adonis Hentz (Mgr.), Paul Holmes (Intern) and D’Juan Smith (Intern).

“This senior class has and will mean an awful lot to me,” said second-year coach Joe Moglia. “Great teams don’t just have leadership just from the coaches, they have leadership from within. We have been a great team so far this year largely because of this senior class.

“These seniors are very much the core of this team. I am incredibly excited that they will be honored prior to the game and they will be missed later on. The reality is, no matter what happens this Saturday or if we continue on in the playoffs, whatever we do in the future is part of this group’s legacy.”

With two regular season games remaining, Coastal has already won 30 games over a four-year span, the third best total in CCU history. (The most wins over a four-year span is 34 from 2003-06 and second-best is 33 from 2004-07.)

In addition to team success, Coastal is the only team in the nation this season to have a Walter Payton Award candidate (Taliaferro), have a Buck Buchanan Award candidate (Quinn Backus) and have a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Mastromatteo).

This year, Coastal has been a consensus top 10 program for a school-record six weeks. The Chanticleers were ranked a Big South-best and program-high third in the coaches poll for three weeks. Coastal was just the second Big South team to start a season 9-0, joining the 2006 Charleston Southern team. In just 10 games, this squad has scored a school-record 455 points – 39 points shy of the Big South single season record – and has scored 62 touchdowns – four shy of the Big South season record. Coastal has also reached Big South records by scoring 40-plus points in seven games this season and 50-plus points six times. Individually, Taliaferro is rewriting the CCU single-season rushing record book and Hazel (155 career receptions) is just six receptions shy of tying Jerome Simpson (161) atop the CCU all-time list.

Last season, Coastal went 8-5 overall and 5-1 in the league to win the program’s fifth Big South title. The Chanticleers additionally earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs and defeated #22 Bethune-Cookman on the road for Coastal’s first postseason football victory. The team finished the 2012 season ranked 24th in both polls, marking the first time since 2006 CCU ended the season among the national top 25. Coastal set team records for completions (253), total offense (5,691) and points scored (446) to name a few while having the second-best single-season efforts in rushing yards (2,590) and passing yards (3,101).

The 2011 season saw Coastal post a 7-4 mark, Small led the team in rushing, Hazel led the team in receiving, Mastromatteo led the team in all-purpose yards and Cheatwood earned his second All-Big South honor in as many seasons.

A majority of this group were freshmen in 2010 when Coastal won the program’s fourth Big South Championship – going 6-6 overall but 5-1 in the league – and hosted the program’s first NCAA playoff game as it received the league’s first automatic bid to the postseason. Receivers Hazel and Sullivan helped CCU complete a then school-record 226 passes, while having 23 receiving touchdowns – then second on the CCU single-season list.  Overall, Coastal rolled up 4,560 yards of total offense – then second on the CCU all-time list – while Mastromatteo set records with 33 punt returns and 247 punt return yards.

Coastal Carolina has won the last five meetings with PC. The Chants have scored a school-record 62 touchdowns this season, and are four away from matching the Big South single-season record of 66. Coastal is looking to finish the regular-season undefeated at home for the first time since 2009.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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