Offense sells tickets

Scots looking to add defense in home opener

Add the penalties, and the Maryville College football team amassed 691 yards of offense last Saturday.

Freshman quarterback Derek Hunt had a brilliant debut, passing for 326 yards and three touchdowns in earning USA South Athletic Conference Player of the Week of the honors.

Right there with him was freshman express Wesley Idlette, who caught eight passes for 153 yards and a pair of scores in being named USA South Rookie of the Week.

Even with 149 yards in penalties, Maryville’s 542 yards of offense was massive.

“We beat them in every statistical category but two,” Maryville coach Tony Ierulli said, “turnovers and the final score.”

The 41-35, season-opening loss at Huntingdon has burned deeply this week in practice as the Scots (0-1) ready to host rival Centre College (1-0) on Saturday at Honaker Field.

Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

The Hawks had a big day on offense last week, too. Huntingdon quarterback Justin Ridgeway lit up Maryville’s secondary for 232 yards passing and five scores, and that’s with the Hawks themselves penalized nine times for 143 yards. Huntingdon running back Jamal Gardner averaged 8.5 yards per carry en route to a 100-yard day.

“I was really embarrassed by the way we played defense,” said Ierulli, who doubles as Maryville’s defensive coordinator.

The Hawks hurt Maryville with much the spread offense Centre will deploy on Saturday.

“They throw the ball all over the place,” Ierulli said, “and they have tall, rangy receivers. We’re going to be tested.”

Maryville’s outburst Saturday came with All-USA South running back Rommel Hightower rushing for only 61 yards on the afternoon. The powerfully-built junior became only the fourth player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season only last year.

Hunt, Idlette and Hightower form the core of an offensive that could be nothing short of dynamic for Maryville this season. After Saturday, the defense is more than motivated to hold up its end, junior linebacker Kyle Chewning said.

“Every loss is tough,” he said, “but that one really hurt. We felt like we were well prepared. We just didn’t execute like we should’ve.”

Touted as difference makers since the start of fall camp, Hunt and Idlette didn’t disappoint in the opener. Hunt, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, didn’t play football last fall. After helping Maryville High to three consecutive state championships, the last in 2006, he’d needed a break.

Back under center, Hunt’s skills have shown no signs of rust. The zip on his throws has increased noticeably. He would be intercepted twice Saturday, once, though, on a pass tipped by a Maryville receiver.

“I was just excited to be out here,” Hunt said, “but it was bittersweet. It really hurt to lose that one.”

Idlette was a real steal for Maryville during recruiting. He’d had a banner year his junior season at The Baylor School in Chattanooga, enough to draw interest from a pair of Southeastern Conference programs. He also had the pedigree, his older brother, Willie, having played receiver and returned kicks on Wake Forest’s 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference championship team.

When his senior season wasn’t on par with the previous one, Wesley Idlette said many of the schools that had sent him letters stopped writing. Ierulli is glad they did. The Scots may now have a game-breaker with 4.3-speed on the outside the likes of which the school has never seen.

“We thought he was a good ball player,” Ierulli said, “but it wasn’t until the first day in pads that I thought, ‘We really have something here.’

“What’s happened is now we’ve got that downfield threat. We’ve always had guys that can make the tough catches and go over the middle. Now, we’ve got that deep threat.”

Hunt picked up on Idlette early in camp.

“I told you,” he said. “He can move. On top of all his athleticism, he’s a smart guy. He knows where to find holes.”

Being passed over by bigger, scholarship schools stung, Idlette said.

“It motivated me a lot,” he said. “I just have to get out there and work hard because nothing’s going to be given to you.”

Ierulli, himself a former Scot, said he can’t remember Maryville having a receiver with Idlette’s combination of size, speed and athleticism. It all means little without the win, Idlette said.

“It was a really tough loss,” he said. “We did some things well, but the coaches have been working on the things we messed up on, too.”

Centre quarterback Grant Conliffe had a super day in the Colonel opener a week ago. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound junior completed 25 of his 34 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns in a 46-22 blowout of Hanover College.

In Hunt, Maryville can answer. Idlette and senior Tyler Sauceman, five catches for 81 yards on Saturday, headline a fleet of Scot receivers available to run under his passes. Hightower and junior Nick Moore are first-rate backs.

Maryville has plenty of offense. After a week of intense work on the practice field, will the defense be ready to answer the bell on Saturday.

“Yes, sir,” Chewning said, “most definitely.”

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mlreb writes:

scots defense will improve

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