By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The West Virginia State Yellow Jackets will be in Athens today for the first Mountain East Con-ference game for Concord University football.
The new league began last year with the breakup of the West Virginia Conference, but the two teams taking to June Shott Field at Callaghan Stadium have a long history. Concord leads the all-time series 27-15 and has won the last four meetings.
The Mountain Lions from Athens received five votes in this week’s NCAA Division II Top 25 balloting after beating No. 23 Lenoir-Rhyne 18-10 last Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
The Concord defense shone in that game, handling the powerful Bears’ offense.
“The defense was tremendous, from the opening drive to the end of the game,” said Concord head coach Garin Justice. “We allowed 215 rushing yards to a team that was second in the nation in rushing last season, to a team that’s primarily a rushing offense. That’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
Linebacker Jake Lilly forced four fumbles last Saturday. Justice said, “That’s a very impressive feat. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that in a football game before. That would be an impressive number in the season.” Lilly also had 13 tackles.
Linebacker Gary Saylor scored a defensive touchdown on a 28-yard run, forced a fumble, recovered one and had five tackles. Safety Josh Clark had a fumble recovery and an interception.
Justice said, “The way we were lined up versus Lenoir-Rhyne, (Clark) wasn’t really anticipated to see a lot of action. But he was able to make some plays and to make a great impact on the game.”
He said every defensive lineman in uniform for Concord last Saturday saw “significant time,” Justice said.
“They (Lenoir-Rhyne) want to wear you down by the way they play, and we ask so much of our guys (in terms of) effort, so ... it’s always important to have a lot of defensive linemen, because that’s such an effort position.”
“Our guys had to be very good at staying true to their cues and doing their own job. The discipline that the defense showed was tremendous.”
Brian Novak got his first game as starting quarterback under his belt, completing 11 of 19 passes, including a second-quarter scoring toss to Shaun Workinger. Receiver Derrick Williams earned 60 yards on three catches.
Justice said about Novak, “We tried to keep him out of bad situations. We knew he could make any throws in our offense; that’s why he’s our starting quarterback. But we knew that we also had to protect him.”
“I thought he managed the game, and was a great leader throughout the game. I liked the look in his eye. ... He was focused, he was leading, he was in tune with the game, in tune with the game plan. We couldn’t be happier or more impressed with his first start.”
He was also happy with the time of possession Concord enjoyed in the first half.
“Going into the game, we wanted to dictate the tempo of the game,” the coach said. “We wanted to work the clock, really wear THEM down, keep our defense fresh for the second half, so we could survive the assault that L-R was going to give us. And we did that.”
He added, “We had great special teams play. Jacorey Robins, who is our special teams player of the week, is ... the guy who was consistent in all four phases, both the kickoffs and both the punts. He had a tremendous day.”
The Yellow Jackets are under the direction of new coach Jon Anderson, who spent the past 11 years as a defensive assistant coach at the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.), an NAIA power.
Last Saturday West Virginia State led Lock Haven (Pa.) 6-3 at halftime, but penalties and special team mistakes by the Yellow Jackets cost them the ballgame 31-13.
LeFloyd Phillips ran for 107 yards for State, and quarterback Tyler Seals completed 20 of 38 passes — with seven of them dropped — for 206 yards. Defensive back Romel Henry had five tackles and an interception.
Anderson has “a great track record,” Justice said. “You can see on film that the guys are better coached than they were in the past. We’re going to have to go out and play fundamental football to beat these guys.”
He said, “They’re going to be a team that, a couple of years from now, can make a serious run in contention in this conference.”
As for Concord’s practice this week, Justice said, “Tuesday was probably the most physical practice we’ve had all year. ... As coaches, we wanted them not to forget how we beat Lenoir-Rhyne. We wanted to continue to keep that edge about us, that physicality about us.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. today in Athens.
The athletics department will be partnering with the Emma’s Touch Foundation to raise funds to fight children’s cancer. The football team will wear gold decals on the back of their helmets for the remainder of the 2013 season, according to a press release. Gold is the official color of childhood cancer awareness.