The Maryville College Scots claimed their first-ever outright USA South Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday afternoon, as MC celebrated Senior Day with a 31-14 win over N.C. Wesleyan College.
The Championship marks the fourth USA South crown the Scots have won since 2012, as this title becomes the first championship not shared with other conference schools.
"I told them that this has nothing to do with me," Head Coach Shaun Hayes said. "I laid out a vision. I can type in a schedule to a calendar. I can put together a game plan, but it's all about them. I'm happy for them. I'm happy for them to experience success in a way that can't be touched. They are the pioneers. It can be tied, but it will never be as special."
With the conference title, Maryville will represent the USA South in the Division III Football Playoffs. The selection marks only the second time in MC's history to make the postseason and the first since 2013.
The Scots will host a Selection Show watch party on Sunday, Nov. 11 in the Orange Room of Cooper Athletic Center. The show is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m., and fans are invited to attend.
"It's going to be a grind," senior running back Elijah Chenier said. "We've got to get back in the training room and get right, but we're excited. We're ready."
Hayes said this run to the championship began nearly 11 months ago, as he credited his 18 seniors. That group stood strong, as Maryville began the season with an 0-2 record.
They rallied for seven-straight victories to complete the USA South schedule with a 7-0 mark – another first in school history.
"Everybody looks at when we got here in August, but this started in January," Hayes said. "When we got back from Christmas break, I brought the seniors into the Garnet Room, and we had a senior-only meeting. I said, 'However this next year goes will be dictated by how you all go.' Every successful collegiate football team is senior led, and there's different roles that each of them play. Some may chart plays, some may be scout team and some may be the record-breaking running back. However, it's consistent, and they never changed based on what has occurred. This started in January with the investment they all made, and it was easy for the young ones to buy in…If it wasn't for these guys being consistent with it and plugging away after the first two weeks, we wouldn't be here. I credit the senior class. They have everything to do with this."
The Scots' 7-2 mark is only the 17th seven-plus win season in the Scots' 116-year history.
Chenier also had a huge day for Maryville, as the senior back 22 carries for 142 yard and a touchdown. With that tally, the four-year Scot breaks the Maryville College career rushing yardage record.
In his career, Chenier has amassed 3,256 total yards on 501 carries. He's averaged 6.5 yards per touch, while notching 24 touchdowns.
"It was unbelievable," Chenier said. "I trusted when my coaches called it, and I trusted my O-line. I just punched it in there. I honestly didn't know that I was about to break it. I just thought I was getting in for a touchdown. The moment I did that, it was unbelievable. I couldn't catch my breath. Everybody just kept slapping me, but it was all worth it."
Chenier passes Rommel Hightower's record of 3,243 yards from 2006 through 2009. The duo of backs clad in Orange and Garnet are the only 3,000-yard rushers in Maryville College history.
"Chenier never once mentioned himself," Hayes said. "Today, in our little devotional, they asked the seniors, 'Who are you going to play for?' Mac Seagle said, 'I want to play for Elijah Chenier, because he has the opportunity to play for something special today. I want to make sure it happens.' There's so many of them that have done so many things that I can't put it into words in a short amount of time. But, there's not one of them that's done anything as great as all of them together. That's been the most important piece of this."
Seagle did just that, as the senior wide receiver had a trio of catches for 102 yards and a score. He also added a carry for a 2-yard touchdown as well, giving Maryville an early 14-7 lead.
Freshman Nelson Smith went 8-of-11 for 156 yards and a touchdown, as Elijah Rachell and Marcus Pierce each carried for more than 40 yards. Rachell had a touchdown run, while Chenier and Seage added rushing scores of their own.
Pierre Chadwick and Bo Hering had interceptions for the Scots, as Trenton Cumby and Markel Kea had seven tackles each. Cumby and Blake Henderson each had a forced fumble, as Henderson added six stops and a trio of pass breakups.
N.C. Wesleyan College (5-4, 4-3 USA South) scored first, grinding out a 12-play, 65-yard drive that took nearly half of the first quarter at 7:08. Donielle Totten finished the final 11 yards on the ground, as the Bishops led 7-0 at the 7:52 mark.
Maryville College (7-2, 7-0) needed just one play to cover 65 yards on their opening drive. Smith found Seagle on the Scots' first play, as the 65-yard touchdown pass knotted things at 7-all just 11 second later.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Maryville would add to their lead and not look back. The Scots covered 85 yards in 12 plays, as the 6:01 drive saw a steady dose MC's rushing attack. Smith found Seagle between two defenders for a 22-yard completion, before Seagle finished the drive across the ground with a 2-yard touchdown run. With 13:42 left in the second quarter, Maryville led 14-7.
On the Battling Bishops' next drive, Henderson forced a fumble that Brady Jernigan quickly fell on. MC needed just four plays to go the 49 yards, as Pierce added a 38-yard run. Rachell finished the final 3 yards, as the Scots took a 21-7 lead at the 10:39 mark.
Chadwick would pick off Totten's pass late in the second quarter, as MC settled for an Ian Hubbs' 38-yard field goal. That made the score 24-7 at the break.
N.C. Wesleyan would get the takeaway to start the second half, as Christian Shaw returned an interception 52 yards. The Battling Bishops covered 25 yards in five plays, as Adrian Minondo crossed the final 6 for a 24-14 score with 9:46 left in the third.
MC would use one final long drive – 13 plays for 63 yards – as Chenier broke the record with a 6-yard carry off the right side. He finished the drive with a 5-yard scoring jaunt for the 31-14 final.