Injury dealt the Maryville College football team a punishing blow before the season’s first game.
Senior and returning starter Tim Conner never got to play a down at quarterback, the preseason All-USA South Athletic Conference candidate injuring his throwing shoulder the first day of full-contact more than four weeks ago. Conner won’t return this season and is considering a medical redshirt.
Since then, the body blows have continued, the loss of an All-American receiver and top returning ball carrier the latest in a series of setbacks Maryville has been forced to shrug off as it readies to welcome to LaGrange (Ga.) College to Honaker Field on Saturday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Knoxivi, in partnership with the Scots Broadcasting Network, with have the internet broadcast.
As if Conner’s loss weren’t enough, the reins of the Maryville offense passing to the hands of a pair of true freshmen, Week 2 last Saturday saw Scots junior All-American receiver Wesley Idlette go down with an ankle injury. During the same contest, senior running back Darrell Tate was also lost. The status for both on Saturday remains a game-time decision, Ierulli said.
“He (Tate) is going to try,” he said. “Same with Wesley.”
Conner’s loss was felt immediately, Maryville absorbing a 54-3 loss to high-powered Huntingdon College in the opener two weeks ago. The Scots tailed storied rival Centre College, 6-0, at the half last week. With Tate and Idlette lost in the opening half, Maryville quickly lost ground when play resumed. The defense tired. The end result was a 35-0 blanking at the hands of the Colonels, the Scots sent away wanting still in search of the season’s first touchdown.
“We’ve got rely on the guys to play hard regardless of what the score is and control what we can control,” Ierulli said.
No one on the hill is taking the slow start this season harder.
“I’ve been miserable,” Ierulli said. “It just makes me mentally sick right now because, for me, there’s nothing worse than losing. Not winning a football game for Maryville College just eats at me personally.”
The Panthers, whom the Scots defeated, 23-6, last season in Georgia, aren’t likely to be passing out sympathies on Saturday. Neither will any of Maryville’s USA South opponents once conference play resumes next week. The Scots have no choice but to answer the adversity put before them, Ierulli said. Maryville began preparing its response at a spirited, mid-week practice on Tuesday.
“I told the guys we can only control what we can control,” Ierulli said.
Maryville had nearly wrapped for the day when Ierulli summoned the Scots to one end of the practice field for a goal-line drill. For eight plays — four each with the first team offenses and defenses — the hitting elevated to bone-crunching levels.
With every successful play for the defense, Ierulli, positioning himself where he did when he played linebacker for the school back in the late 1970s, would chide the offense to do better. When the offense pushed the ball across the goal line, the defense caught a full dose of its coach’s rebuke.
That’s what’s it’s going to take for the Scots halt the season’s opening slide before it goes any further, senior linebacker Hayden Jerrolds said.
“That’s what it needs to be right now,” he said.
The absence of Conner has had a telling effect on the offense. Freshmen Dustin Williams and Zach Dowdy of Halls have been tasked with retooling Maryville’s offense from the quarterback spot. Williams has taken the majority of the snaps, completing 27 of his 54 throws for 245 yards with one interception. Dowdy is 6-for-20 for 32 yards through two games. Both are sure to see more blitzing from opposing defenses, Ierulli said.
“They’ve just got to be able to respond,” he said.
Junior Ryan Roach and freshman Blake Williams can both make plays at the receiver spots for Maryville if Williams and Dowdy can find them with the football. Behind the two rookie signal callers, the Scots have a pair of freshmen — Travis Felder and Nick Scott — set to fill in for Tate.
“It’s kind of a work in progress,” Ierulli said. “Some of them are younger guys. If they continue to progress, I think we’ve got some outstanding football players.”
An increase in offensive production is a must in preventing opponents from continually tiring the Maryville defense in the second half, but an increase in the length of their shifts is no excuse for yielding better than 1,000 yards of offense to two opponents thus far, Caylor said.
“It’ll get turned around,” he said.