Quarterback battles


(Photo by Katie Forrester)
Evan Pittenger waits between downs at football practice.

The quarterback battle for the Fighting Scots of Maryville College between sophomore Eric Sisson and freshman Evan Pittenger is heating up more and more every week.

Entering week five of the 2012 season, the two quarterbacks have proven more than worthy of heading the offense. After four games, both Sisson and Pittenger are completing roughly 50 percent of their passes and moving the offense down the field. But can a two-quarterback system work all year?

Entering spring practice of 2012, the quarterback position was a big question mark for the Scots. With the loss of last season’s starter due to a transfer of schools, the Scots weren’t left with much to work with. Sisson, a 6-foot, 175-pound southpaw from Copperbasin High School in Copperhill, Tenn. was pretty much handed the job at the start of spring. As just a freshman with no experience at the varsity level, his teammates were skeptical about his abilities.

That was until practice actually started. It didn’t take long for Sisson to win over the respect of his doubters. After a couple weeks of learning the new system under new head coach Mike Rader, Sisson was shredding the defense with ease and making passes that no one expected him to. With little competition behind him, Sisson was the clear-cut choice as the starter for the upcoming season. “Being the only guy, there wasn’t really as much pressure,” Sisson said. It was then that the rumors began.

Rumors of an incoming transfer with an incredible arm and good speed began stirring up commotion. As it turned out, the rumor was true. Transferring from Chattanooga State where he played baseball, Evan Pittenger came into MC ready to compete for the starting job.

Pittenger, better known as “Pitt,” graduated from Lincoln County High School in Fayetteville, Tenn. in 2011. Upon graduation, he had made up his mind that he wanted to play baseball rather than football at the next level. After some bad experiences with the coaches at Chattanooga, Pitt decided that football was what he wanted to pursue.

“I didn’t like the way [Chattanooga’s baseball coach] treated his players,” Pittenger said. “I was there for about six months and me and him never even had a conversation. The only thing I could think about while there was ‘Gosh, I miss football.’”

After a call from recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shaun Hayes as well as a visit, Pitt decided that Maryville was perfect for him.

“I really, really liked the coaches here,” Pittenger said. “I liked the way coach Rader was and the way he treated his players. It made me feel like I wouldn’t have to worry about what I worried about at Chattanooga.”

(Photo by Katie Forrester)
Eric Sisson playing quarterback during football practice.

Pittenger has been giving Sisson competition ever since. The two-quarterback system has been a strategy that has had little success in its history. Many critics feel that sticking to one quarterback is the better route to take because it allows the offense to get into a consistent vibe. The situation is a little different for the Scots.

With both quarterbacks having so many different qualities to offer, it’s almost impossible to pick just one. Sisson is a lefty, while Pittenger is a righty. Sisson is more of a pocket passer, while Pittenger is more of a dual threat quarterback. Hayes understands that using all of these attributes correctly could possibly land the Scots with an offensive attack that is nearly impossible to stop.

“It gives the defense a lot of different looks and forces opposing coaches to use extra time preparing for two different types of offenses,” Hayes said. “I think I have an edge in reading the zone,”

Sisson said.“Also, having been here last year I know the players a little better.”

With that, Pittenger claims to have has his own talents to offer, as well. “I feel like I can bring a run threat to the table and be able to make plays when the pocket breaks down,” Pittenger said. With Sisson being left handed and Pitt being a righty, the amount of versatility that it adds to the offense is a clear advantage.

“I think it keeps the defense on their toes,” Pittenger said. “I know I usually tend to roll to my right when things break down, but the defense also has to be aware of Sisson rolling to the left as well.”

Although the quarterback battle is getting more and more intense on the field, Sisson and Pittenger don’t let it get between them off the field. “Me and Eric have a good relationship,” Pittenger said. “I consider him to be a pretty good friend of mine. Being a part of a two-quarterback system, we have to communicate a lot and feed off each other.” According to Sisson, the two quarterbacks are more worried about making each other better rather than themselves.

“Even though we are competing all the time we are still helping each other out to get better,” Sisson said. “I think that’s what makes our relationship so good.” This quarterback “battle” is one that the Scots have embraced all season.

Both Sisson and Pittenger realize their role as a player and understand that the ultimate goal is to win, no matter who is behind center. Being good friends off the field and pushing each other to get better every day will serve to be a great asset for the Scots down the road.

Sisson and Pittenger will take the field together again when they take on Methodist University in North Carolina on Oct. 13. The Scots will be hoping to build on a great conference road win at Greensboro College last weekend. as they head into another conference matchup on the road. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and can be viewed live from a link on the MC football page.

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