For the first time in Maryville College’s history, the Fighting Scots will be playing postseason football.
On Saturday, Nov. 23, the USA South Conference champion Maryville College Fighting Scots (8-2) will travel to Virginia to face off against the Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion Hambden-Sydney Tigers (8-2) in the Scots’ first ever NCAA Division III Tournament appearance.
“This is a historic moment in this college’s history and I just want to thank the administration and everybody for all your support,” said head coach Mike Rader immediately following the NCAA playoff selection unveiling. “Yesterday, it was a tough loss, but the bottom line is this—you have an opportunity to go out and show this country what you’ve been doing.”
After rattling off seven consecutive victories, the Scots concluded their regular season with a 45-38 loss in a shoot out against the top-ranked offense in the country (593 yards per game) and conference rival, Huntingdon College. The loss was not enough to push the Scots from reaching their first ever NCAA Division III playoff berth, however.
Prior to the defeat, the Scots received their first top-25 national ranking in the past 35 years after improving their record to 8-1 on a dominating performance at Greensboro College. This victory brought the 2013 team into elite company as only the fourth team in the history of the college to post an eight win season. The victory also gained them national recognition as they captured enough votes to earn the 24th spot in Division III football.
“I really just want to say thank you for everybody’s support,” Rader said about the national ranking. “The kids, the coaches, the staff, the administration, the faculty—everybody plays a part in something like this.”
Rader emphasized that this year’s team has really bought into the philosophy of being more than just a team, and instead have played unselfishly and trusted each other like a family.
“I think that there was confidence within our team that we would be successful with so many starters coming back,” said Zachary Selby, junior offensive lineman. “We all bought in to the program and we knew that if we did what our coaches told us to the best of our ability and as effectively as possible, we could put together a special season.”
This determination and belief throughout the roster and coaching staff have certainly helped to push this year’s squad over the top.
“Obviously [Coach Rader] has changed a bunch of things,” said Travis Felder, senior running back. “And it’s worked out, apparently, very well. Two years, two championships, one playoff run. That’s pretty good statistics.”
Furthermore, MC President Dr. Tom Bogart has been extremely impressed with Coach Rader’s ability to push athletes to succeed not only as football players, but also as students.
“Coach Rader has provided excellent leadership since arriving at Maryville College,” Bogart said. “What I most appreciate is that he works closely with faculty and staff from across the entire college. While what happens on the field is exciting, the common goal for everyone is to foster student success through graduation.”
The Scots have literally run all over the competition this season as they have averaged 289.1 rushing yards per game. That ground dominance has led the Scots to an average of nearly 40 points per game.
Leading that rushing attack has been Travis Felder who is averaging 107 yards per game and leads the USA South with 19 rushing touchdowns. In addition to Felder’s impressive body of work, quarterback Evan Pittenger has led the offense as a dual-threat signal-caller, averaging 67 rushing yards per game, good for sixth overall in rushing for the conference. Freshman Trenton Schuler rounded out a trio of Scot’s rushers in the top ten, with 56 yards per game.
“The big thing for us this year is that our five offensive lineman from last year are back,” Felder said. “They work so well together and all four of our backs that run behind them, we just look for the holes they make and hit them.”
On the other side of the ball, preseason All-American senior linebacker Dylan Wolfenberger has dominated on defense while amassing an incredible 116 tackles on the season. Preseason breakout player of the year, senior defensive end Jamie Owen destroyed the USA South competition for a total of seven sacks on the season.
The Hamden-Sydney Tigers will host the first round match up against the Scots, which will be the third time in the Tiger’s history hosting the opening game of the playoffs, and the fifth time in the last seven years that the school has reached the postseason.
The last time that the Scots faced off against Hamden-Sydney was in 2003, when the Tigers put up a whopping 82 points for an impressive 82-14 victory. But this Scots team is clearly not the same as it was 10 years ago.
After becoming acclimated to Coach Rader’s new system and buying into his coaching philosophy, the Scots have seen dramatic success, winning back-to-back USA South Conference championships. The match up this weekend against a strong Tiger’s program will not be easy, but the Scots are up to the challenge.
“Always we expect a ‘W,’” Felder said. “I don’t know much about the team as of yet, but we’ve played a few common opponents. They beat one of the teams that beat us and we beat one of the teams that beat them. So, obviously, it’s going to be a real good game for us.”