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Reynolds lifts 49ers to landmark win

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Chris Reynolds tore the labrum on his throwing shoulder on the first play of the 2020 season. He played through the injury, did not miss a game – but he wasn’t himself.

Reynolds, the fifth-year senior and fourth-year starting quarterback for the Charlotte 49ers, returned to awesomeness in the 2021 opener. He threw three touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter, to give Charlotte an exhilarating 31-28 win over Duke on Sept. 3.

The 49ers were playing a Power 5 conference team on its home field for the first time in program history.

“Chris has been exceptional,” coach Will Healy told reporters. “He’s executed really well, and that’s what you expect him to do. I think the steps he’s taken to become the face of our program have been really impressive. We’re so lucky to have him back again, and obviously we feel like we’re in good hands with him running the show.”

Charlotte had no answer for Duke running back Mataeo Durant, who ripped off a school-record 255 rushing yards and three TDs.

Reynolds’ 56-yard pass to Grant DuBose gave Charlotte a 10-0 lead, but then Durant got cranked up and Duke surged to a 21-17 lead.

In the final frantic minutes, Reynolds was magic. He engineered a 92-yard drive capped by an 8-yard pass to DeBose. That erased Duke’s four-point lead and lifted Charlotte ahead 24-21.

Durant broke a 53-yard run as Duke regained a 28-24 lead. Only 1:44 remained when Reynolds worked his magic again. Charlotte drove 75 yards in seven plays. Reynolds hit Victor Tucker for 9 yards. After a sack, Reynolds and Tucker hooked up for 19 and 34 yards. After an incomplete pass, Reynolds ran for 7 yards to the Duke 11. On third-and-3, he threw a swing pass to running back Shadrick Byrd, who scored with :33 on the clock.

Moments later, the student section stormed the field. It was a truly magical moment, winning a game that featured six lead changes, including four in the fourth quarter. It gave local football fans flashbacks to 2013-16, when Reynolds was a War Eagle.

Reynolds was 19 of 30 for 324 yards with no turnovers. Look at his last two drives: 9 of 10 for 161 yards and two TDs. Earlier in the game, he ran into the end zone from the Duke 1.

Reynolds said: “When times are tough and it’s crunch time, you go back to your training. When I looked into the guys’ eyes, there was a sharp glare and you felt that energy.”

Said Tucker, who had eight catches for 133 yards: “When it’s the fourth quarter, we don’t care about how tall you are, how many stars you had coming out of high school or how highly recruited you were. We just want to win, and that’s one thing I can say about me and Chris. When we look at each other in the fourth quarter, we only expect to win and make those big plays.”

This could be the former walk-on’s final Charlotte season if Reynolds chooses to forgo the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted athletes due to the pandemic. His brother Jack Reynolds is a freshman walk-on for the 49ers. Could that play into Chris’ decision to return in 2022? When asked if this would be his last season, he didn’t sound sure either way.

“Being a 49er is special to me,” he said. “They’re the ones who gave me a shot. I’ve built some of the best relationships here. You only get one shot at this thing, and I want to make sure when I look back that I don’t regret anything. I want to make sure I look back and say I gave it everything I had in my time here. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I’m taking it day by day. All I know is I’m going to give my all for this school.”