FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- Leading by only three points in the final two minutes of the game, Maryville College's Ruben Rodgers intercepted a Methodist pass and took it to the house to preserve a tough 28-24 conference road victory in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
The host Monarchs lit up the scoreboard first with just over nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. On a sustained drive following a Maryville fumble, quarterback Max Reber found Gerry Gillis in the end zone for a score. Cody Ausherman's kick was no good.
Maryville answered with a 25 yard scoring pass of their own. Jared Miller hauled in the pass to even the score. A pair of personal fouls gave Dylan Miller a 35 yard PAT attempt. Miller's kick failed and the score stood at 6-6.
The end of the first quarter resulted with Methodist taking a brief 9-6 lead. Cody Ausherman connected on a 32 yard field goal to take the game to the second quarter.
The Scots' defense forced a punt and Maryville responded with a drive exceeding 60 yards. The drive ended when quarterback Evan Pittenger scrambled right and dashed left for a 21 yard touchdown run. Miller's kick made the score 13-9 in the middle of the second quarter.
MC's defense was stellar once again but Methodist was prepared to take advantage of any Scots' miscue. Monarch linebacker Seth Sandlin picked off Pittenger and returned the ball to the MC 17 yard line. Reber promptly hit James Bevans on a back shoulder slant in the corner of the end zone for that 17 yard score. Ausherman's kick gave Methodist a 15-13 lead just before the half.
With just over ten seconds before the intermission, MC's Pittenger was picked off. An ensuing personal foul gave Methodist the ball on Maryville's 18 yard line. The final play of the half was a successful 35 yard field goal by Methodist's Ausherman. At the break, Maryville trailed 18-13.
A third quarter defensive struggle was featured by a Methodist miscue. A high snap resulted in a Josh Krebs fumble recovery, stopping a Monarch drive that was knocking on the Scots' goal line. MC took advantage of the opportunity and on a sustained drive, Pittenger connected with Ed Johnson for a long touchdown pass to put Maryville up 19-18. A two-point running conversion gave Maryville a 21-18 lead going into the final quarter.
Methodist had numerous opportunities to close the gap in the final quarter, but Maryville's defense rose to the occasion. Following a poor MC punt, Maryville defense stood strong. Another Chasen Williams punt gave Methodist the ball in Maryville territory, but the defense held Methodist to a 26 yard field goal attempt to tie the game. The kick sailed wide left and Maryville maintained the 21-18 advantage.
With 2:55 remaining in the game, key stops by Maryville's Tyler Todd and Zach Capehart forced Methodist into a fourth and seven passing opportunity. Ruben Rodgers jumped the route and put Maryville up by ten (28-18) at the 1:55 mark with his game saving scoring pick.
The Monarch marched down the field in less than 30 seconds to close the gap. Reber hit Blake Scott for a touchdown pass, but Methodist's kick was no good leaving the score at 28-24.
The ensuing on-side kick was done on two occasions and covered each time by the Scots. As the clock closed out Maryville would claim their second consecutive road conference victory by the score of 28-24.
"I am so proud of our team for fighting through adversity today," stated head coach Mike Rader. "Our defense especially in the fourth quarter, when they had to step up and make stops, they did. Our offense made plays when they had to. Putting up the numbers we did in the past two games was not as easy against this skilled team, but we found ways to get points on the board. Everything that we had to overcome today: going on the road, getting out of our routine…we eliminated distractions and took care of business and I am proud of everyone on this squad."
Maryville advances to 3-3 on the season. Their 2-1 USA South mark puts them in second place in the league.
Methodist falls to 2-4 and 1-2 in USA South challenges.
The Scots will return home next week to host LaGrange College for homecoming. Kickoff is slated for 2:00 p.m. on MC's Honaker Field.