Homecoming folks are crazy, aren’t they?
The Maryville College administration as always had a morbid sense of humor picking its homecoming games. Understandably a lot more factors than the opponent come into play, but ever since the Scots joined the USAC it seems inevitable that one of the two toughest opponents on the slate will be dubbed for homecoming. A fact that seldom escapes the bulletin board in the opposing locker room, this making a tough game even tougher.
True, it makes Honaker Field its most intimidating for a big game. But it certainly breaks away from the predominant model of trying to find a nonconference date with a high probability of sending the past graduates away with that warm glow of victory that seems to open wallets wider.
Back in July it looked like maybe the schedules had coincided for if not an easy game, at least one that wasn’t against the conference champion-to-be.
In the light of the first day of the USAC’s fourth week of conference play, LaGrange looks less the new kid in the conference and more the adolescent rising power. As impressive as Maryville’s second road win in as many weeks looked Saturday, it was LaGrange that took MC’s place as the hottest USAC team. While the Scots were on the long ride back from Fayetteville, N.C. Saturday night, LaGrange was stopping Christopher Newport’s conference win streak at 14, taking a 20-6 win under the lights of POMOCO Stadium in Newport News, Va.
Instead of MC one of three teams tied at 2-1 behind CNU and owning a win over one of those co-No. 2s already, it’s a five-way logjam for first at 2-1 as LaGrange somehow rebounded from giving Averett it’s only win of the season last week to holding CNU without a touchdown.
For the first time in a long time, with four games to go it’s anybody’s USAC title to take.
Which makes LaGrange’s homecoming visit to Maryville Saturday suddenly even larger. CNU and Ferrum each take on one of the three teams not tied for first. Greensboro does as well but MC has the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Pride after winning in Greensboro last week. Which means that the only game that will knock one back and the other forward will be on Honaker Field.
LaGrange is still the rival in all other sports at MC from the GSAC days that ended in May, but in football LC has been mostly wandering the independent wilderness over its first six years of existence. In that time, LaGrange found Maryville as one school always willing to play. The schools have played every season since LC started its program in 2006 — but for the first time it’s a conference game and the biggest one yet for both LC in its new conference home and for Maryville’s new coach Mike Rader.
It’s a game where all the little things matter. A game where a few hundred extra raised voices yelling for “Murvul” count.
So maybe the homecoming authorities aren’t as nutty as they once seemed.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com Follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports