A week after allowing 41 points to Huntingdon College in a loss that ruined Averett’s perfect conference record, the Cougars responded on Saturday with a more stout defensive effort in the first of a string of must-win games.
Maryville College managed to collect 279 total yards at Campbell Stadium, but the Scots found the end zone just once in a 31-13 Averett victory.
“After giving up 41 points, as a defense, we take that hard,” senior safety Hunter Hinson said. “All we were looking to do was … get back to our brand of football.”
Averett and Huntingdon now have one USA South loss apiece, and the Cougars need the Hawks to lose twice in order to win the conference outright. In the event of a tie atop the standings, Huntingdon has the head-to-head tiebreaker and would earn the automatic bid into the playoffs.
In the event the Hawks do slip up, the Cougars needed to be ready. The first step in that direction involved beating Maryville.
The Scots, however, did their best to cause confusion by using two different quarterbacks and a handful of pre-snap motions plays.
“They’re trying to move parts around and trick you,” said Hinson, who had 12 tackles and an interception. “They’re getting big plays off of trickery.”
Ultimately, they relied heavily on sophomore running back Jacob Bunch, the USA South’s leading rusher (117.6 yards per game), who amassed 140 yards on 26 carries. His 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter briefly gave Maryville a 10-7 lead with six minutes to play in the first half, but that was the only time Averett (6-2, 4-1 USA South) looked to be in any trouble.
Averett was outgained by 16 yards in the game, but the Cougars defense eventually figured out the tricks in Maryville’s offense.
“Once we dissected it down and thin-sliced (their offense) into categories, we understood exactly what they were,” head coach Cleive Adams said.
Averett scored on its first possession of the game, a 26-yard pass from Jacob Wright to Jarrod Mosby—the first touchdown the Cougars have had against the Scots (2-6, 2-3) since their 2016 meeting.
Maryville added a field goal and Bunch’s touchdown in the second quarter for its only lead.
After the teams traded punts on the next two drives, Averett went ahead on a 5-yard run from Joshua Tapscott and took a 14-10 lead into the break.
The game came to an abrupt halt midway through the second quarter, though, as Averett senior cornerback Ja’Corey Burley required medical attention after tackling Maryville wide receiver Terry Stewart.
Burley dived low in an attempt to make the play, but Stewart leapt to avoid him. Stewart ended up completing a somersault of sorts and landed out of bounds. Burley, meanwhile, remained on the turf after taking a hit to the head or neck area.
Medical personnel removed his jersey and pads before placing him on a stretcher and taking him off the field on a motorized cart. Both teams held separate prayer circles on their sidelines, and players from both schools surrounded the cart before its exit.
“We all came together and prayed and said, ‘We’re gonna do this for him now,’” Hinson said. “Whatever we didn’t do (before), we’re gonna come out and find a way to do it for him.”
Burley was evaluated at a local hospital and was released—making it back to the sidelines in time to see his teammates complete the victory.
“He gave me a hug after my pick (in the fourth quarter), and I said, ‘Man, that’s all for you, brother,’” Hinson said.
In the second half, Tapscott scored on a 3-yard rush, opening up a 21-10 lead. Maryville’s Ian Hubbs added a 24-yard field goal four minutes later, but that was the last of his team’s scoring. Even before that kick, the Scots had been stopped on three consecutive goal-line plays.
“In practice we had to get back to the basics, so we made sure we keyed on that this weekend,” said junior linebacker Nicholas Mintz, who tallied eight tackles, including 2.5 for loss. “We came out and showed what all that hard work does.”
After Maryville’s field goal, Averett’s Cole Westberry tacked on a 44-yarder of his own. It was his first converted field goal of the season in five attempts, and it put him one make away from tying the USA South’s career record of 34.
The Cougars added one last touchdown in the fourth quarter, an 11-yard pass from Wright—who transferred from Maryville in the spring of 2018—to wide receiver Chase Nixon.
For Adams, to see his team go without a touchdown against Maryville for two consecutive years, bookending Saturday’s game with visits to the end zone was a nice break from that trend.
“I just believe that the foundation of our offense has evolved,” Adams said. “We always describe our offense as opportunistic, and it’s not a one-man situation. It’s all 11 guys, and all of our skill players contribute in one capacity or another. That puts a lot of pressure on teams.”
Wright finished 15-of-22 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Tapscott added 27 yards on the ground, and senior running back Chris Francis ran for 42 of his own. Mosby caught five balls for 50 yards, Nixon caught four passes for 42 and junior D’anta Lambright hauled in two passes for 30.
Averett returns to action at 5 p.m. next Saturday at Brevard College.
AU — Mosby 26 pass from Wright (Westberry kick), 7-0, 10:01
MC — Hubbs 40 field goal, 7-3, 13:45
MC — Bunch 2 rush (Hubbs kick), 10-7, 6:00
AU — Tapscott 5 rush (Westberry kick), 14-10, 0:35
AU — Tapscott 3 rush (Westberry kick), 21-10, 8:44
MC — Hubbs 24 field goal, 21-13, 4:29
AU — Westberry 44 field goal, 24-13, 2:41
AU — Nixon 11 pass from Wright (Westberry kick), 31-13, 8:48
Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton.