So much for easing your way into the season.
The Maryville College football team opens the 2010 season at Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Ala., on Saturday, and the Scots couldn’t have picked a more explosive opponent to begin the new campaign.
The Hawks were the nation’s No. 1-ranked offense a year ago, and, while the Huntingdon must replace the starter at quarterback, both running backs and both receivers return for a team that averaged 540 yards per game last season. The Hawks were lighting up the scoreboard at a 42.3 points per game clip.
“Ideally, you’d like an easy game to start off with,” Maryville coach Tony Ierulli said.
The Scots fell hard, 31-13, in the opener last season at Honaker Field. In 2008, Maryville and Huntingdon staged a full-on shootout before the Hawks prevailed, 41-35.
The Hawks tend to keep it simple, Ierulli said. They’re just real good at what they do.
“They have four or five running plays, four or five pass plays, and that’s it,” he said. “You’ve just got to hope your defensive guys can out execute what they do on offense.”
Another high-scoring affair is well within the realm of possibility. Junior All-American receiver Wesley Idlette and senior quarterback Tim Conner give Maryville a home run combination easily capable of big numbers. Idlette finished with 62 catches for 994 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. Conner completed 52 percent of his passes for another 1,800 yards and 14 scores.
Senior Darrell Tate highlights a backfield that should be able to hold its own. It’s in finding some running mates for Idlette on the outside that’s been much of the focus for fall camp, Ierulli said.
“One of our goals this spring was to try to establish a strong No. 1 and No. 2 receiver,” he said.
Look for junior Ryan Roach and sophomore Zane Winders to be in the pattern much of the time with his lead ace, Ierulli said. Roach finished as Maryville second-leading receiver a year ago with 20 catches for 323 yards and three scores. Winders didn’t catch many balls, but Maryville High graduates 15.8 yard per catch average and his improvement over fall camp make him a legitimate threat, Ierulli said.
If Idlette, Roach and Winders can get open, Ierulli said he’s confident Conner can find them.
“He continues to develop and get better,” Ierulli said. “He’s had a good fall camp and exerted his leadership. When you have a senior quarterback, he’s very dependable. He’s seen all kinds of blitzes and situations you can come up against, and that’s very important.”
Much of the concern about Saturday lies in simply slowing the Hawks down. As with many such opponents, a good, ground-oriented offense is often the best approach.
“The first thing we’ve got to do is establish our running game,” Ierulli said. “We struggled with that last year. We’ve got to be able to run the ball to open up our passing game.”
Maryville opens the home season hosting longtime rival Centre College at Honaker. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.