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Pittenger Packs A Wallop

Scots QB true dual threat as MC welcomes Averett

Maryville College quarterback Evan Pittenger scampers for a big gain last Saturday. Photos by Brandon Shinn

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

As the season nears the halfway point, the USA South Athletic Conference is more than living up to its reputation.

Junior wide out Ed Johnson had this game-winning catch at homecoming last week.

Offenses are ripping into opposing defenses for big chunks of yardage. The passing game seems the only game at times as two quarterbacks have already thrown for better than 1,000 yards. Huntingdon leads the conference with a whopping 557.0 yards per game, with three others – Methodist (468.8), Maryville College (460.5) and LaGrange (438.3) – hot on its heels.

It’s been tough for one-time conference heavy Averett to keep up at this point.

The Scots (3-1, 1-0 USA South) and Cougars (1-3, 0-1) meet at 1:30 this afternoon at Honaker Field in a clash that will do much to shape the conference race down the stretch. Maryville, with dual-threat quarterback Evan Pittenger coming off a week where he earned USA South Player of the Week honors, is stressing conference defenses like few others.

A junior college baseball transfer a year ago, Pittenger isn’t far back of the conference’s top passers with 776 yards and four touchdowns as the chase for the league’s automatic postseason berth heats up. The Lincoln County native is an efficient 65-of-99 on his throws.

Methodist bomber Max Reber has 1,252 yards and seven touchdowns through four games. Maryville absorbed 373 yards from Reber but, critically, kept him out of the end zone with the Monarch unable to notch a score through the air.

“That’s a very athletic group,” Maryville coach Mike Rader said, “and that quarterback is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.”

LaGrange’s Graham Craig trails Reber on the passing tables with 1,147 yards and 11 scores through three games.

Maryville’s Ed Johnson ranks eighth in the league with 20 grabs for 277 yards and two scores, one of them the 13-yard winning catch against the Monarchs in Maryville’s 35-26 homecoming victory last week.

“I just tried to focus on the catch, keep my eyes on the ball to the catch,” Johnson said. “I just caught it and tucked.”

It’s what Pittenger is doing with his legs that’s giving USA South defenses fits. Factor in the Scots also sport the conference’s top back, and Maryville has become the team few others want to play in Rader’s second season at the helm.

Senior running back Travis Felder, seen here against N.C. Wesleyan last season, is leading the USA South in rushing.

Senior Travis Felder is much, much more than a compliment to Pittenger’s aieral/ground offensive. The Orange Park, Fla., native is the conference’s top rusher as Averett rolls in, besting all USA South ball carriers in both yards, 114.2 yards per outing, and touchdowns, eight.

Pittenger ranks fourth in rushing with 78.5 yards per game.

The Cougars have struggled to this point, bringing up the conference rear as the only team averaging less than 300 yards per contest.

Offense withstanding, if there’s an edge for Maryville this afternoon, it’s on the defensive side of the ball. The Scots returned much of the conference’s top defense from a year ago, one that helped Maryville claim a share of the 2013 league championship. Led by All-American senior linebacker Dylan Wolfenberger, it stood when needed most last week.

After rolling to a 28-10 halftime lead, the Scots were forced to hang on as the Monarchs mounted a furious charge. Methodist pulled within a 28-26 Maryville lead with nine minutes remaining.

The Scots made homecoming a happy one for Maryville College president Tom Bogart.

“We executed a lot of things, and we left a lot things out there,” Rader said. “It’s amazing how things shifted.”

With just under five to play, Pittenger and the offense roused itself. Johnson outfought a Monarch defender for the ball in the end zone to give Maryville some breathing room.

With the Methodist looking to answer, freshman Jayvon McCullough stripped Reber of the ball on fourth-and-1 at the Maryville 23 with 2:54 left. Felder put it away for the Scots on a 12-yard run on third-and-2 soon after, enabling Pittenger to take a knee to exhaust the remaining time.

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