Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 15, 2012

Concord faces ground attack of Eagles

ATHENS — The third weekend of Concord University’s football season arrives with the team facing the conference’s lone undefeated team, the University of Charleston (2-0) — and looking much different from the lineup projected in the preseason.

The loss of quarterback Zack Grossi in a Monday car wreck was the most recent and most dramatic change. But the Mountain Lions (1-1) are without five other expected starters.

Spenser Jordan, Concord’s leading tackler in game one, is gone for the year with a knee injury. Linebacker Tré Preston and cornerback Riyadh Richardson are out for today’s game.

The offense will be without Grossi for the rest of the season, and at least temporarily without halfback Andrew Gondor and tackle Cody Parker.

“We’ve gotten hit with the injury bug pretty good,” said Concord head coach Garin Justice. “You lose six of your 22 starters, it really tests your depth. And I feel good about our depth. ... We’ve got to play without them. We’ve got to hunker up and play.”

Today’s game, with a 1 p.m. kickoff in Athens, pits CU against UC and all-American running back Jordan Roberts, who leads the conference in yards gained with 323. The Golden Eagles’ average of 319 rushing yards per game is fifth best in NCAA Division II.

Justice said, “We’ve played two good running offenses the last two weeks, and did an adequate job of slowing those guys down.”

“Roberts is going to get some yards. I mean, he’s a good back, he’s going to get a few yards. But the biggest thing we’ve got to do is, to stop the explosive one, stop the big run. Keep him to his two- and three-yard gains, and contain him.”

“And last year, we did an excellent job at that,” Justice said. Roberts gained 91 yards in Concord’s 38-15 win at Charleston in 2011.

Justice said, “If we can do what we did with him last year — and last year he was an all-American — we should be all right.”

The Golden Eagles play a 3-3 stack defense brought to Charleston by head coach Pat Kirkland and defensive coordinator George Shehl, who learned it at Justice’s alma mater, West Virginia University.

Justice said he and Kirkland are “good friends” who were both graduate assistants at the same time at WVU, and Shehl was a senior teammate of Justice during the 2005 season that ended with a Sugar Bowl win.

Justice said, “I played as a player against that defense for five years. I coached against it a year in practice. So I know what tricks they have up their sleeve, so to say, as far as what they’re going to bring defensively. I think that’s an advantage.”

“I think the odd stack gives a lot of people issues, because they don’t see it ... every single week. I think that’s a major advantage for them. I feel confident against it because I’ve [gone] against it, I’m so familiar with it.”

“I feel confident that we’re going to move the ball against it, but they’ve also got a great football team.”

Justice noted, “They’re kind of the hot team in the conference right now, but they have yet to be tested. And I feel we have been tested.”

“I still think they’re a good team, I think they’ll make some major impact on this conference. But we’ll see exactly where both us and Charleston stack up in this conference.”

The Concord offense has averaged 39.5 yards per rush and 255.5 yards passing per game this season. Chris Rodriguez, with an average of 6.4 yards per carry, will tote the ball more for Concord this week. Justice said CU has been working on improving the running game.

“We’ve just got to do a good job in the backfield of getting vertical, getting the ball upfield and being happy with the three-yard run,” Justice said. “We need to be content with the short runs, because as the game progresses, that’s when the big one will burst out. That’s what we hope happens.”

He said that freshman Albert Rose, the new starting quarterback, will help the rushing attack.

“Albert’s a guy that, if the pass protection breaks down, he could scramble for five or six yards, and keep the chains alive,” Justice said. He said Rose’s passing “gives it a different look” from Grossi’s game.

Onetime backup quarterback Will Cole, who won the Kennedy Award while at Bluefield High School, chose not to rejoin the Concord team this season. He said he will graduate from CU this May.

Meanwhile, Rose will have plenty of targets on Saturday.

Bluefield High alumnus Ansel Ponder has caught passes for more than 100 yards in both of his games for Concord, while Randal Hawkins and Ryan Stewart each caught six passes last Saturday in a 30-22 home loss to Winston-Salem State University.

Justice said, “Albert’s been doing well all camp. A year ago, we had doubts about Albert. But all Albert would do is to come in, and work, and continue to prove us wrong.”

“And Zack’s been a great leader to him. Zack’s been a guy that’s kind of took him under his wing, and helped him progress, and helped him become a better football player. Again, Albert’s not the same player that Zack is, but Albert’s going to be an effective player for us.”

“This is Albert’s football team now, and we’ve got to get behind him.”

Today’s game will be broadcast over a Beckley radio station, AM 620 WWNR.

— Contact Tom Bone at

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