At this time a year ago, Chip Tremarelli was the 12th or 13th player on the field for a Hilton Head Island High School soccer team fighting for a state championship. He saw little action, if any, at his center midfield position and went into the summer simply hoping for a chance to crack the rotation.
That's when Seahawks coach Wayne Quinlan went out to watch him play for his club team, where Tremarelli was always getting into space and proving to be a dangerous threat from the attack position. Later that night, after watching his pupil dazzle from the stands, he placed a call to the rising senior with a new plan in mind.
"When I left the field that night," Quinlan recalled, "I called him on his cell phone and said, 'You better get ready to play forward.' Because he just has a nose for it."
He showed people why Thursday night, collecting a career-high five goals in a thrilling 5-3 win over sixth-ranked Myrtle Beach in the second round of the Class 3-A playoffs.
"They were the Lower State champs before us," Tremarelli said, struggling to find the words to summarize his night. "I knew we just had to come out as hard as we can and never give up until the end of the game."
The senior collected a hat trick before halftime, after giving Hilton Head High (19-4) a 1-0 lead in the 3rd minute on a breakaway before breaking a 1-1 tie in the 15th when he slipped one in during a scrum. He pushed the advantage to two in the 36th when he stole the ball away from Myrtle Beach keeper Anthony Silvestri, who sprinted up the box to try to beat the Seahawks forward to the ball.
"That may be the most incredible playoff performance I've ever seen out of a player," Quinlan said. "Who gets five goals in the playoffs against the (No. 6) team? Thirty-plus years, I've never had a player get five goals in a playoff game."
Tremarelli added another two in the 44th and 60th thanks to two assists from Georgia Southern signee Chris MacMurray, who was temporarily sidelined after rolling his ankle in the first half. He fed a streaking Tremarelli with a through ball for his fourth goal before sliding one across the box for the fifth and final score of the night.
It was a fitting performance for a pair of seniors who work alongside each other almost exclusively each day in practice, Quinlan said.
"They just have an understanding," Quinlan said. "They read the game early on, read the shape that Myrtle Beach was using and just exposed them just like they knew what they were doing."
"Chris is my brother out there on the field," Tremarelli added. "We've been playing together forever."
His goals were more than enough to survive Myrtle Beach (18-4), which tied it 1-1 early on with the 25th goal of the season from Presbyterian signee Mason Lewis. The visitors added two goals from Zach MacMillan in the second half, the first of which came when he collected the ricochet following his penalty kick in the 66th.
"Looking at the brackets, I just hated us two teams had to play this early in the playoffs," Myrtle Beach coach Jason Himmelsbach said. "I really think it would have made a great Lower State final. But I was impressed with Hilton Head High. I think they've got a great team, a good coach and a bunch of seniors that want to keep fighting. I hope they make it back to Columbia and we'll certainly be pulling for them."
Hilton Head High now awaits fifth-ranked Brookland-Cayce (21-3), which the Seahawks will host at 7 p.m. Saturday for the right to advance to the Lower State final. The Bearcats took out St. James 2-1 in Columbia on Thursday.
MacMurray thinks they can get there as long as Tremarelli is on their sideline.
"Wow, amazing. Five goals," MacMurray said. " ... I said it last game, he's on fire right now. No one is going to stop him. If you watch his movement all game, he always knows where to be at the right time."
Hilton Head High 5, Myrtle Beach 3
Goals: Myrtle Beach -- Zach MacMillan (66th, 77th), Mason Lewis (10th); Hilton Head High -- Chip Tremarelli (3rd, 15th, 36th, 44th, 60th).