Hillary leads CCU to hostile but familiar territory at ASU

Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary is leading the Chanticleers to new heights, both figuratively and literally given the team’s trek up the mountains to face Appalachian State on Saturday.

After setting career passing marks for the past three weeks, Hillary may need another record day to help the Chants (2-2) avoid a three-game losing streak. He would trade all his personal stats for a win in Boone, NC.

But it’s no easy task facing the 17th-ranked Mountaineers in their own backyard, where 30,000 fans pack the stands and few visitors escape with a victory. Hillary will be leading the Chants into hostile –  but not unfamiliar – territory.

Elder brother Coco Hillary graduated from Appy State as the program’s all-time leader in kick returns and among the top five of all-time receivers. Aramis used to make the trip to see his brother play for a pair of Division I-AA national championship teams.

“He played five years there (and) we went to six or seven games every year,” recalled Hillary. “That atmosphere is crazy. It’s pretty much a Division I atmosphere. There will probably be 30,000 fans there. He’s told me that they’ve wrapped the stadium all the way around, and he warned me about that and about how loud it will be.”

Hillary has been the one making noise lately with his record-setting streak, which was capped by last week’s 30-of-47 passing performance for 356 yards – all career highs – while tying a career high with three touchdown passes in a 38-28 loss at Toledo. And it’s not a big step down in class from a FBS mid-major to an FCS power like Appy State.

“They have a great defense. They are nationally ranked,” said Hillary. “They have some great guys – some big guys, some fast guys. We have a lot on our hands that we have to prepare for this week, (but) it’s another game, just another college football game, like coach told us in practice, it isn’t easy winning college football games.”

Hillary has found that out the hard way over the past two weeks. After leading the Chants to a 47-45 upset at Furman, in which he also set personal highs, Hillary has seen his numbers go up but the only number that counts – wins – fall by the wayside. As a true leader, Hillary has shouldered his share of the responsibility for the losses while deflecting the praise to teammates.

“Luckily I’m just the guy in the spotlight – the quarterback position,” Hillary said. “I think the other two quarterbacks we have could do the same thing with the players we have. The O-line has been doing a great job this year and those guys outside are fantastic. They could go with anybody in the country.

“I really can’t take the credit for any of it,” Hillary added after reading off a laundry list of teammates who have made contributions. “We have great players. We have done a great job of getting some great players at Coastal Carolina, and they are making huge plays and making me look real good.”

Hillary’s teammates hope to make him look even better against the Mountaineers, whom he passed over in the recruiting process for Coastal and the chance to play QB. Another banner day might make the Mountaineers second-guess their decision, but no amount of personal gain could replace the feeling of making the loud stadium he visited as a child fall dead silent at the end of the day.

“But, like I said, we have to go win a football game,” Hillary said. “The crowd doesn’t really matter. We have to rally together as a team and come up with a win because we’ve come up short two weeks in a row and we can’t afford a third one.”

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