By Thomas Grant Jr.
Previous visits to Williams-Brice Stadium were “pretty cool experiences”, according to Furman safety Hugh Ryan.
Playing at Dutch Fork High School afforded him the opportunity to play and win three state championships on the homefield of the University of South Carolina football team.
The most notable of those title victories for Ryan occurred in 2017. His shoestring tackle of Dorman tight end John Gelotte at the 1-yard line on a 2-point conversion attempt with 19 seconds left clinched a 28-27 victory and the second of five straight Class 5A titles for the Silver Foxes.
On Saturday, Ryan was faced with a more hostile, albeit still “awesome atmosphere” at Williams-Brice Stadium. Greeting he and his Paladin teammates were 78,281 most frenzied Gamecock fans rooting at the top of their lungs for a victory.
South Carolina complied with a 47-21 victory over Furman. The contest saw three of the five Gamecock quarterbacks (Spencer Rattler, LaNorris Sellers and Luke Doty) all score a touchdown against the Paladin secondary.
Ryan led all defensive players with 10 tackles. He also found himself oftentimes as the last line of defense against the relentless passing attack of the Gamecocks.
Rattler completed 25-27 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. He sat for most of the second half as Sellers completed all four of his passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
Following the game, a disappointed Ryan talked about the Paladins having to get better.
“I don’t know we had some missteps on defense,” he said. “I think we have some issues on defense that we’ve got to get fixed that came to the forefront. Things we’ve got to get better at, especially in the secondary. Just the big plays. So, I’ll just learn from it. Don’t let it be a negative thing. Make it a positive thing and learn from it.”
Despite Saturday’s outcome, Ryan still has fond memories of playing for state titles at Dutch Fork in Columbia. While his alma mater has struggled, he remains a believer in the program.
“I’m so proud of the success we had and all the memories we made, you know, back when I was on the team and everything,” he said. “I mean, you could just feel them struggle trying to figure some things out. They had some tough teams they played early in the season. I think they should be able to settle in and compete for a championship.”
While Ryan competed Saturday, another Irmo native was out of action. South Carolina sophomore safety Nick Emmanwori of Irmo High School was nursing a hamstring injury suffered in the loss to North Carolina.
His status for Saturday’s game against two-time defending national champion Georgia should be updated this week.