The Saturday before Maryville College’s 23-13 victory at Ferrum, the Scots defeated LaGrange 48-17 to cap off an eventful homecoming weekend at MC. The win moved the Scots to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the USA South Athletic Conference midway through the season.
Honaker Field was nearly filled to capacity for the game. The estimated attendance, according to mcscots.com, was 5,278, not to mention the hundreds of students, alumni and fans watching from outside of the stadium.
The season-high turnout was matched by the Scots’ season-high margin of victory. The win put the Scots in a three-way tie with Huntington and North Carolina Wesleyan for second place in the conference.
The Scots faced a potent LaGrange offense led by quarterback Graham Craig, who, prior to the game, was the second-ranked passer in Division III and led the USA South in passing yards (1,511), yards per-game (377.8), completion percentage (71%) and touchdowns (15).
The Maryville defense held Craig to season-lows in each of these categories; Craig completed 23 of 49 passes (46.9%) for 257 yards and one touchdown. The Scots’ defensive front sacked Craig a season-high six times and hurried 19 throws. Perhaps more impressively, the MC defense held the Panthers to only 64 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
“I thought our front four did a phenomenal job of putting pressure on an offense that can put up a bunch of yards in a hurry,” said head coach Mike Rader. “When you’re playing against that style of offense and can make the quarterback feel uncomfortable, you’re going to throw off the timing for everybody [on the opposing offense].”
Junior Jonathan Clark and freshman Patrick Cronin led the MC front four with two sacks each. Freshman cornerback Da’Kelin Wells led the Scots in total tackles with seven.
The Scots’ offense remained run-heavy in the win, utilizing their committee of running backs and quarterback Evan Pittenger to rack up 299 rushing yards on 51 attempts, with four rushing touchdowns. Sophomore running back Trenton Shuler carried the ball 17 times for 142 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Raekwon Neal had 16 carries for 71 yards. Pittenger ran the ball 10 times from the quarterback position, posting 67 yards and a touchdown. Running back Eddie Brock and back-up quarterback Nick Myers also posted a rushing touchdown.
The Scots’ passing attack was led by Evan Pittenger, who completed 10 of 17 passing attempts for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re going to do what the defense dictates,” Rader said. “We always want to be able to run the football, but we always want to be balanced, too… when teams are trying to outnumber us in the box, we’ve got to be able to throw and catch.”
Though the Scots had 51 rushing attempts and only 20 passing attempts, they certainly were balanced when they approached the red zone, effectively converting six touchdowns in seven appearances inside the LaGrange 20-yard line, and with the addition of a 21-yard touchdown pass from Evan Pittenger to Ed Johnson, scored three passing touchdowns to accompany their four rushing touchdowns on the day. Sophomore wide receiver Anzelo Scullark recorded his first receiving touchdown in the win as well.
“We think about the red zone a lot as a staff,” Rader said. “We want to make sure we find matchups in the red zone, and a lot of times it comes down to getting the ball to your best playmakers.”
The win marked the fifth game of the ten-game schedule, and the second half of the season will determine the Scots’ fate as they seek a third consecutive USA South Conference Title.
In order for the Scots to accomplish this goal, Rader felt that focus was key:
“We have to focus on every day, one day at a time… We’ve got to continue to fight to become a team, and leaders have to continue to lead… Everybody has to own their role, and want to do their role to the best of their ability every day.”
The win over LaGrange, followed by an impressive 23-13 victory against conference rival Ferrum, places the Scots (3-1 in USA South) into a four-way tie with Huntington, N.C. Wesleyan and Christopher Newport for first place in the USA South Athletic Conference.
The Scots will travel to Greensboro to face their conference rival and attempt to maintain their first place standing this Saturday.