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Scots defy preseason ranking to climb within game of conference crown

Travis Felder takes the handoff from quarterback Eric Sisson during the Maryville College home finale on Saturday. Photos by Brandon Shinn

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Kane Crowell wraps up Wesleyan's Jacques Austin.

Mike Rader won’t allow himself to dwell on it, but he knows the scenario.

A Maryville College win at Ferrum next week, coupled with a Christopher-Newport loss to Methodist, and the Scots finish in a three-way tie for the USA South Athletic Conference championship.

Not bad for a rookie coach whose team was picked to finish next to last by league coaches in preseason polling.

“We’ve got to win,” Rader said. “We haven’t really done anything yet.”

After Saturday’s costly but convincing 34-13 win over North Carolina Wesleyan at Honaker Field, Maryville (5-4, 4-2 USA South) would finish in a tie with Panthers (7-2, 5-1) and Captains (6-3, 5-1) if the pieces mentioned above fall into place.

“This week, practice needs to be like any other week,” Rader said.

Christopher-Newport owns the tie-breaker with the Scots by virtue of a 45-31 win earlier this season at Honaker Field.

Gabe Johnson makes the stick at the goal line on Austin.

The Scots hope to have freshman quarterback Evan Pittenger back for the trip to Danville, Va. The Lincoln County football/baseball standout was injured and taken from the field by ambulance on the last play of the first quarter.

“We think he’s OK,” Rader said. “All the scans came back good.”

Pittenger experienced no loss of movement and was transported to a local hospital as a precaution, Rader said.

The Bishops (2-7, 1-5) received a similar scare late in the second half when a player didn’t get up after a hard tackle and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

As with Pittenger, the North Carolina Wesleyan staff said he’s expected to be OK.

Injury played a hand before the first snap when Maryville sophomore Rance Hightower was tripped leading the Scots through the cheerleader banner and was trampled unwittingly by his following teammates. The Maryville tackle looked no worse for wear as the Scots built leads of 7-0 after a quarter and 17-7 at the half.

Chad Brooks ran 15 yard for an opening Maryville score with 10 minutes to play in the opening quarter. Maryville sophomore Eric Sisson, who alternates with Pittenger at quarterback, made the connection with wide out Ed Johnson for 15 yards and a 14-0 Scots lead with 14 minutes to play in the half.

Ed Johnson tucks the pigskin to his chest.

Jacques Alston’s 3-yard run pulled the Bishops within a touchdown before a Jonathan Sykes 26-yard field goal opened a 17-7 lead at the half.

The Scots carried the day with a 293-yard rushing effort, Brooks setting the tempo with 16 carries for 91 yards and a pair of scores. Sisson and junior Travis Felder tacked on 62 and 58 yards, respectively, Felder a third Maryville rushing touchdown.

Sisson finished 13-of-23 passing for 159 yards and the scoring toss to Johnson with no picks.

“He had a great week of practice,” Rader said. “He came out and on his first drive we scored.”

Sophomore Jared Miller, a Maryville High product, enjoyed a big day as Sisson’s and Pittenger’s favorite target with five catches for 81 yards.

Seven Scots had catches, including freshman Dalton Graumann, who had a grab for 8 yards.

The Scots lost four first-half fumbles.

Dylan Wolfenbarger, game-high 12 tackles, Kane Crowell, Zack Brown, Gabe Johnson and Joshua Krebs, seven each, paced a Maryville defense that limited the Bishops to 120 yards rushing, 97 passing for the afternoon.

Wolfenberger entered Saturday the nation’s second-ranked tackler in NCAA Division III.

North Carolina Wesleyan pulled within 17-13 on a Austin 6-yard with 12 minutes to play in the third before a Maryville fourth quarter surge blew it open.

Jonathan Sykes connects on one of his two field goals Saturday out of the hold of Brady Brown.

The Scots opened the lead to 24-13 when Brooks popped through a hole over right guard to score from 9 yards eight minutes to play in the third. On the Bishops’ first possession of the fourth, Gabe Johnson stripped the ball from Wesleyan ball carrier, with Jonathan Clark recovering for Maryville at the Wesleyan 15.

Sykes’ second field goal of the day, this one from 25 yards, opened the Maryville advantage to 27-13 Scots with 12 minutes remaining. The Scots went 66 yards in eight plays for the 34-13 final margin one possession later, Felder adding the insurance on a 3-yard run off  right guard with seven minutes to play.






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