A pair of fourth down plays did not end positively for the ETSU football team Thursday night as the Maryville Fighting Scots downed the Buccaneers 28-21 in front of 7,357 fans at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
The Bucs were held on downs at the Maryville goal line late in the third quarter with an opportunity to take the lead, and the Scots later stopped another fourth down attempt at their own 21-yard line as the Buccaneers were driving to tie the game.
With the loss, ETSU drops to 0-2 on the season, while the Scots improve to 2-0 on the year.
Former Elizabethton standout Adam Mullins tallied four tackles in the game, while Chad Pritchard had one catch for six yards.
While the Bucs outgained the Scots 416 to 353 in total offense, it was Maryville junior tailback Trenton Shuler who was a difference maker in the victory. Shuler finished with a team-best 107 yards rushing and scored twice – once on a 22-yard run and once on a 35-yard reception.
For the Bucs, redshirt freshman tailback Jajuan Stinson again led the way on the ground with 114 yards rushing, while redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Herink was 11-of-15 through the air for 78 yards. Herink also accounted for two scores with a 10-yard touchdown run and a 17-yard scoring pass to fellow freshman Demetrius Anthony.
The game started auspiciously for the Bucs, as Stinson fumbled on the first possession of the contest, setting up Maryville at the ETSU 39-yard line. Just five plays later, Maryville collected the first score of the game on a 22-yard touchdown run by Shuler.
Trailing 7-0 just four minutes into the game, ETSU responded quickly, as Herink capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive with a bruising 10-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7 with just over five minutes left in the half.
The Bucs kept the pressure on Maryville thanks to the defensive unit, as on the next possession cornerbackTavian Lott picked off Maryville quarterback Evan Pittenger’s deep pass attempt. Herink and company then went to work again, as wide receiver Dalton Ponchillia sparked the ensuing drive with a 44-yard run, setting up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Herink to Anthony.
With the Bucs leading 14-7, Maryville answered to tie the game with a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Buell. On the ensuing possession, Maryville used an interception off Bucs’ quarterback Nick Sexton to start a drive that resulted in another touchdown pass from Pittenger to tight end Logan Winders and left the Scots leading 21-14 with just under 10 minutes left before halftime.
After trading possessions, the Bucs began their final drive of the first half with 2:22 left on the clock, and proceeded to run the two-minute drill to perfection, as Sexton used his scrambling skills and his right arm to lead the Bucs on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 20-yard scoring pass to Ponchillia, making it 21-21 at the break.
While the first half was a scoring fest, neither team managed points in the third quarter even though the Bucs did threaten a score midway through the frame. Moving the ball to the Maryville 1-yard line, the Bucs tried two straight running plays but were held out of the end zone by the Scots defense.
Maryville maintained the momentum early in the fourth quarter, as Pittenger found Shuler on a swing pass that the tailback took 35 yards for a score on third down to make it 28-21 in favor of the Scots with 9:39 left in the game.
On the next ETSU possession, the Bucs once again drove deep into Maryville territory only to be stopped by the Scots on another fourth down attempt at the 21-yard line. Taking over on downs, the Scots killed the final five plus minutes on the clock with multiple first downs, including a fourth-down conversion of their own with two minutes left in regulation that iced the game.
The Bucs will return to action next Thursday on the road at Big South Conference opponent Charleston Southern. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Charleston, S.C.