Offensive line source of strength in Scots’ dominant offense

Maryville College Offensive Line preparing for their playoff game against Hampdon-Sydney. Shown from left to right: Brooks Lovely, Dakota Jenkins, Devin Brunsvold, Tyler Dailey, Rance Hightower, Dalton Stephens.
Maryville College Offensive Line preparing for their playoff game against Hampdon-Sydney. Shown from left to right: Brooks Lovely, Dakota Jenkins, Devin Brunsvold, Tyler Dailey, Rance Hightower, Dalton Stephens.

When people went to watch a Maryville Scots football game this past season, they probably noticed the talented players at the skill positions. They surely saw Evan Pittenger scoring touchdowns with both his arm and legs. They couldn’t miss Ed Johnson leaping over defenders and making spectacular catches week in and week out. They most likely were amazed at Travis Felder juking and bowling over helpless defenders.

The casual observer probably did not notice, however, the other? players on the field that made all of that possible.

The 2013 Maryville College offensive line produced one the most prolific seasons on record for a blocking unit. Together, they paved the way for a rushing attack that averaged 280 yards a game, which was good enough for eighth in the country in Division III football.

“The reason I think we had so much success this past season is because of the unity as a group we had,” said Rance Hightower, Junior First Team All-Conference Right Guard. “We knew what each other was  thinking, and we knew what to tell someone when something went wrong. This is the closest group I’ve ever been a part of, and you could tell by our play that we were a tight knit group.”

Unity is key to an offense’s success as a whole, but it is especially important for the offensive line. The five players need to work together in order to effectively run block and protect against the pass rush. In the passing game, the line allowed only three sacks in 11 games, which was better than all other schools in the country.

“Chemistry was key to our success,” said Connar Benson-Epsteen, Sophomore Center. “If you know and understand the people you’re working with, it helps a lot. We are a run dominant offense and without a physical O-line you cannot have that identity.”

The Fighting Scots offensive philosophy is built around the running game. In 2013, they ran the ball 52 times a game while passing only 23 times per game. To run the ball as much as Maryville did, a good offensive line is essential. The line was especially successful in getting a push in the red zone, as they were capable of paving the way to 47 rushing touchdowns on the year.

“I think the offensive line has a majority of the impact on the offense. There are five of us that have to work as one, and even if we are one man off, the play doesn’t work,” Hightower said. “We have a job on every play. Whether it is passing or run blocking, we have to be hitting someone, and our offensive success is when the offensive line is more physical than our opponent.”

With three of the five starters from 2013 returning next year, the offensive line has promise to have another strong performance and continue to produce at a high level. While they are not the flashy players that fans see every snap, they make everything in the offense happen. They are the glue to what the offense does and without the line the offense would fall apart. Take away the offensive line and we wouldn’t see Evan Pittenger throw those deep bombs to Ed Johnson, and we wouldn’t see Travis average 5.6 yards per run on his way to 22 touchdowns.

While they will never get the credit for a touchdown, the offensive line can be happy knowing that they are the reason that the fans get to cheer for all those skill position players.

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