JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Senior running back Jacob Saylors scored three touchdowns before the first quarter was through, as the Bucs grabbed a season-opening win over Mars Hill on Thursday night, 44-7.

In his first game as a collegiate head coach, George Quarles earned a resounding victory in front of an excited home crowd.

“The atmosphere – I thought the energy was awesome in the stadium,” he said after the game. “Our student section was great, crowd was great – so that was a lot of fun.”

It didn’t take long for the Blue and Gold to inject energy into the crowd, as Saylors broke off a 40-yard rushing score just about five minutes into the contest. Just minutes later, quarterback Tyler Riddell lofted a pass to Saylors, who hauled it in for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead.

Still in the first quarter, following a near-punt return touchdown from Alijah Huzzie, Saylors found the endzone for the third time from just a yard out to give the Bucs a commanding 20-0 advantage.

Alijah returned an interception for a touchdown towards the end of the half to cap off his impressive evening. He sandwiched it between two Will Huzzie touchdown grabs. The standout wide receiver hauled in five catches for 67 yards and the two scores on the night.

“He’s so athletic and he can jump,” Quarles said of Huzzie. “We probably need to target him a little bit more.”

A second-half Tyler Keltner field goal rounded out the ETSU scoring in the third quarter.

The Bucs amassed just 304 yards of total offense on the night, but were often put in short-field situations thanks to some brilliant returns.

“I thought the difference in the game was special teams,” Quarles said. “Neither offense was very good tonight – I thought our defense played really well.”

Quarles was pleased to have the victory, but explained there is still a great deal to clean up.

“We didn’t block real well, we just didn’t execute very well,” he said. “I think this will be something that we, clearly, got to get to work on.”

ETSU (1-0) will begin its conference schedule next week as they travel to The Citadel. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 10.