Berry College’s Quincey Shelton tackles Maryville College’s Pierre Watkins during Saturday’s Division III game at Honaker Field.

Maryville College coach Shaun Hayes stood at the center of the Scots’ postgame huddle following a 27-22 loss to No. 18 Centre in Danville, Kentucky, and issued a poignant statement — five words that every player surrounding him was already thinking.

“We’re going to be good.”

The Scots haven’t arrived yet as evidenced by defensive coaches lashing out at their players for not tackling during an otherwise productive Tuesday practice.

“I think they know that they’re good now, but they don’t understand why they’re not winning and why they can’t finish yet,” Hayes told The Daily Times. “If I would have asked everyone if they would have made that tackle in a football games, everyone would say yes.

“You can’t practice like that and have the self-confidence to do it when it’s live. If you don’t learn how to practice in preparation to win, then when the opportunity comes to win the internal belief in yourself and the faith in everybody around you wavers.”

Maryville enters its final non-conference game of the season against Hanover at 1 p.m. today on Honaker Field with an 0-2 start in consecutive seasons.

The Scots did go on to win their first outright USA South championship a year ago, and this year’s performances against Berry and Centre signal this team is further ahead than the last. That means nothing until they realize what it takes to spark a turnaround.

“I do (feel like this 0-2 start is different than last year’s), but we’re still not consistent enough,” Hayes said. “I’m just ready for it to happen because I want them to experience it. I don’t know if it will happen or when it will happen because there are still changes that we have to make, but I think as time goes, we’re starting to figure out who wants the ball when the lights come on.”

Consistency has been an issue for Maryville’s offense, which racked up 371 of its 580 total yards during its seven scoring drives through the first two games. The Scots are averaging 2.7 yards per play on their other possessions.

Similar production would be a disappointment against a Hanover defense that has struggled to begin the season, surrendering 463 yards per game. The Panthers allowed Centre to amass 109 more yards than the Scots did.

“We have to be who we are and not try to be somebody we’re not,” Hayes said. “I want to be balanced, but if you want to do that, you can only do what the kids know, no matter what the best thing for you is schematically.

“I think more planning, more details and more repetition with what we’re going to do will help … and within two weeks we’ll settle in to who we are and have some players out there that we can do things with that we possibly couldn’t with others, and that’ll allow us to become much more consistent.”

A victory over Hanover would mark Maryville’s first non-conference win since it knocked off Emory & Henry in 2017, and it would come against a team that reached the NCAA Division III Football Championship last season.

The Scots expect to have a successful season, but at some point they will have to turn that belief to action.

“This team knows it’s good, but knowing and being are two different things,” Hayes said. “We have to do it more consistently on a day-to-day basis.”

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Sports Writer

Troy takes a lead on high school sports coverage and is the beat writer for UT men's basketball for The Daily Times. He's also a regular contributor for The Daily Times on The Sports Page radio show.

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