Records are made to be crushed!

Peterson, Hightower highlight MC fall

Jessica Peterson nuked the school record for goals in a season.

Considering he’s got a year to go, Rommel Hightower did much the same for the football career record for rushing yardage.

There were many highs during the fall sports season at Maryville College.

Peterson bettered the previous single-season mark for goals for women’s soccer by 10, the sophomore and Great South Athletic Conference Player of the Year finishing with 34 to rank second nationally in NCAA Division III, one goal back of the national leader.

The record Peterson surpassed was held by teammate Sarah Harmon, who had the school’s record for 70 career goals in her sights until a knee injury wiped out the final month of her season. Harmon, Maryville’s single-season and career leader in assists, would finish with 61 goals.

That’s a ton of scoring, which makes it no surprise the Lady Scots capped a 17-4-1 season with a Great South Athletic Conference championship and an NCAA tournament berth. Women’s soccer would be the only fall sports Maryville team to earn that distinction.

Women’s sports at Maryville would claim a pair of player of the year selections, with junior Lindsy Little securing the top Great South honor for women’s volleyball. Freshman Kristin Findley had a huge year in her first season at Maryville, finishing just back of Little for the team lead in kills en route to being named Great South freshman of the year.

It would be a bitter disappointment when, after a 28-4 season and a Great South championship, women’s volleyball was not extended an invitation to the national tournament. It brought to a premature close one of the great playing careers in Maryville history, with senior Rachel Skerczak becoming one of only a handful of Lady Scots to eclipse 1,000 kills.

The highs for Maryville fall sports this season were accompanied by an equal amount of lows, the historic run into the history books by Hightower a poignant example.

Alvin Nance played his last game at Maryville in 1979, leaving behind a career rushing mark of 2,502 yards. The record stood for nearly 30 years before Hightower began dismantling it three seasons ago.

As the numbers would indicate, Maryville (5-5) has had few backs like the Lenoir City bruiser. This fall, the Scots had the passing game necessary to add the balance a truly great back needs. Freshman Derek Hunt gunned the ball through opposing secondaries en route to finishing with 1,129 yards passing and six touchdowns.

Hunt’s primary target, fellow freshman Wesley Idlette, could one day erase all of the records for receiving at Maryville. With 47 grabs for 778 yards and four scores this fall, it was a real recruiting steal to get this kid at Maryville.

All of it led to an offense to put 542 total yards into Huntingdon College in the season opener. The total was close to 700 if you throw in the penalties.

Maryville lost that game, 41-35, when the Panthers returned fire with five touchdown passes. It would prove a theme as many landmark moments for the Scots saw an equally tough low soon to follow.

“We came into the season with high expectations,” Maryville coach Tony Ierulli said, “and we were up and down all season.”

Knocking off defending USA South conference champion North Carolina Wesleyan College, 37-24, put the Scots in the driver’s seat for a league title at midseason. A conference championship would bring with it an automatic NCAA playoff berth. No Maryville team had ever done that.

“That was a championship-type game we were able to play well enough to win,” Ierulli said.

A loss at Ferrum College the following week forced the Scots to quickly regroup. A week later, conference powerhouse Christopher Newport University escaped Honaker Field with a 38-31 win on homecoming, and Maryville was forced to put its hopes for a first-ever trip to postseason on hold for another year.

It led to a bittersweet senior day earlier this month.

“My proudest moment was the last home game when I introduced all our 26 seniors, seeing the line stretch the length of the field with the families (standing) there with them,” Ierulli said.

There were other reasons to celebrate at Maryville this fall. Men’s soccer turned in a stirring stretch en route to its conference crown, only to be, like the women’s volleyball, excluded from the NCAA tournament. Then there was last weekend’s football finale, which summed it all up.

That was the day Hightower stormed past Nance into the record books, his 175 yards that afternoon raising his career total to a new Maryville best of 2,592.

“I think our offensive line is more proud of that record than Rommel,” Ierulli said. “All those guys played a critical part in breaking that record.”

Late in the game, Hightower would lose a key fumble as the Scots saw an early lead slip away and become a 20-17 loss.

The good news is Hightower, Hunt, Idlette and backup quarterback Tim Conner all return next season.

“Hopefully, with Derek Hunt and Tim Conner coming back, we’ve stabilized that position for the next three years,” Ierulli said.

Depending on how much Hightower is looking to pad Maryville’s new career rushing record, one year may be enough.

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