The Maryville College Scots fell in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs, as a second-half surge allowed No. 18 Berry College to advance, 31-0.
Saturday's game marked just the second time Maryville College has played in the NCAA football postseason in school history. The outright USA South Champions end the season with a 7-3 mark.
"First of all, congratulations to Berry and Coach K," Maryville College Head Coach Shaun Hayes said. "He does a great job, and he's got a great program. He does it right, and the way they have treated us while we've been here has been the best I've ever been around. Congratulations to them, and good luck in the next round. You know, we came out with a plan, and we executed a little bit of what we wanted to early. Penalties really hurt us. Last night when we talked in our meeting, the number one thing I wrote on the board that could get us was penalties."
The Scots were penalized on Saturday nine times for 73 yards. The Vikings came out with four flags for just 30 yards.
However, for Hayes, being in the position to play in the playoffs was a special one. He says the vision of this squad is just now beginning.
The fourth-year head coach hopes to make the postseason a regular occurrence for the Orange and Garnet.
"We'll have to build," Hayes said. "The house that I want to live in here, the foundation's just been made. We cannot become comfortable. We've got to be able to put this behind us. You know, we were an outright champion. We did have a piece of history, but we aren't where we need to be. We're not where I expect to be or want to be, and I know these [seniors] are done, but they don't want us there either. So, I hope that we are not content, and if we get content, I will make sure I make them uncomfortable because we have a lot of good kids. We're so close, man. I want to make sure that they don't let it slip and that they don't get confused on why they got here. The investment they made, and the belief and the trust, we were able to create this vision. When we had it, it wasn't going to be broken by anyone. I'm proud of these guys for that."
Berry – a squad that rushed for more than 200-yards per contest this season – went to more of an air attack on Saturday.
The Vikings had 378 total yards of offense, as 216 of those came via passing. Quarterback Heath Burchfield was 20-of-36 with one touchdown.
"They got two big screens, and that hurt us," Hayes said. "Those really got us, but other than that, I think they played extremely well. I was very proud of our secondary. We gave up a lot of passing yards, but I don't think we gave up a vertical ball. I'm very proud of how they improved."
MC netted just 116 yards for the game offensively. The Scots went for 61 yards through the air, as they ground attack amassed 55 yards.
Senior running back Elijah Chenier had 43 of those yards, as he closes out his record-breaking career with 3,299 yards.
"There were a lot of little holes," the back said. "I had to get skinny. It was definitely some tough-nosed running. I knew from last time that it was going to be. Coach preached physical all week, so I was definitely trying to play physical and get in where I could fit in. Their defense is basically made to stop our offense…they came with it today, but we're going to do what we can. Our crew will play them again next year."
Freshman quarterback Nelson Smith was 7-of-14 for 48 yards, as he added 13 yards across the ground. Trevor Thomas had 13 yards passing, as Terry Stewart (20), Mac Seagle (19) and Pierre Watkings (13) each had more than 10 yards receiving.
For Berry, it was Joey Connors that rushed for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns that included a 74-yarder.
In all, the Vikings rushed for 162 yards on the day, but the Scots held them to just a 6-of-15 effort on third down.
"We know that we can get off the field on third down, and that gives our offense motivation when we get there," senior defensive lineman Trenton Cumby said. "Throughout the year, I think we've done good on third down. It's just biting down and being hardnosed. If we can stop them, then our offense has that field position. Other than that, we knew coming in that Berry is probably the most physical and athletic offensive line that we've faced. We knew that it would be a hard-fought game."
Blake Henderson led all defenders with eight tackles, as Ware added seven. The duo combined for a tackle for loss, as Cumby added another on five tackles. Pierre Chadwick and Bo Herring each had six tackles, as Markel Kea added five. Michael Bailey had a pair of pass breakups on the day.
"We've got to stay humble, and we've got to know that we're going to get everybody's best shot now," Hayes said of the playoff experience. "Everybody wants to knock off the champion. Berry does the same thing, and week-after-week, that's hard. It's hard, so it's an exciting moment for us, and I'm very blessed and thankful that we got to experience this. I plan on being back here again."