Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 1, 2012

Mountain Lions face immediate challenge

ATHENS — A challenging September begins for the Concord University Mountain Lions tonight in Athens with a return visit to Callaghan Stadium by the Bears of Lenoir-Rhyne University.

The team is eager to take the field after the long months of the off-season, head coach Garin Justice said on Friday.

“It’s different colors. It’s a different uniform,” said Justice, the coach of the year in the West Virginia Conference last season. “I think our guys are ready to go show off all the hard work they’ve put in during the past year.”

This evening has been declared military appreciation day. A tailgate party for all veterans and active duty military personnel will begin at 5 p.m. adjacent to the stadium, and they will be admitted free to the game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Concord returns 15 starters from a team that won the WVIAC championship with a 7-4 record after an 0-2 start, and took part in its first NCAA football playoff.

Among the CU returnees are two league statistical leaders from 2011 — linebacker Jake Lilly, who had 115 tackles, and cornerback Riyadh Richardson, with 16 passes defended.

Lenior-Rhyne, from Hickory, N.C., went 7-3 last year and tied for the championship of the tough South Atlantic Conference. Linebacker Demetrius Green is the reigning SAC defensive player of the year and junior Michael Green is a threat at defensive back and returner.

Just like tonight, Concord opened the 2011 season hosting the Bears. The start of that game was delayed more than two hours by lightning and heavy rain, and Concord came out flat and suffered a 26-6 defeat.

Justice was asked what the team learned since then. He said, “We’ve learned a lot the past year, and hopefully it translates [tonight]. But, we’ll see. I think we’ve grown up a lot. Our maturity level has really come along.

“We’ve learned how to appreciate the process, instead of showing up and assuming that we were going to win, or that we would be great.

“We learned how to practice the right way, how do everything right in January and in March, on days where it may not seem like it’s a big deal, but ultimately it was important for us to be successful in the season.”

It is rare for Concord to host the same team in the season opener two years in a row. Justice said it worked out that way because it’s the start of a new contract with the North Carolina school, and the Bears needed an away game to balance out their schedule.

Concord’s offense will be led by senior quarterback Zack Grossi, who threw for 2,541 yards and 17 touchdowns. New receiver Ansel Ponder, a transfer, along with Ryan Stewart and Randal Hawkins look to be Grossi’s main targets.

At running back, Andrew Gondor is technically the starting tailback. Chris Rodriguez, who backed up Brian Kennedy at the position for two years, is looked on to be the “thunder” to Gondor’s “lightning,” Justice said.

“Andrew and Chris are both going to get a lot of carries. Andrew is the faster type of scatback, and Chris is the thicker, pounding kind of guy. Hopefully those guys will embrace their roles.”

“The way college football has changed, you see less and less of a back getting 30-plus carries; you’ll see more of a pair of guys getting 12 and 18. The game’s become more physical, and you want to make sure everybody’s going to be able to last the season.”

The defensive player of the year in the conference last season, Joe Greenway, has completed his eligibility and is now on the coaching staff as a grad assistant.

But three first-team all-WVIAC selections — nose guard Josh Miller, Lilly at linebacker and Richardson at corner — are back to anchor the defensive effort. Another plus is hard-tackling Davon Marion returning to the defensive backfield this season.

Lenior-Rhyne just missed making this month’s preseason top 25 in NCAA Division II as voted by the American Football Coaches Association, coming in 26th in points. Concord was also among schools receiving votes.

The Mountain Lions’ opponent next Saturday, Winston-Salem (N.C.) State, is ninth in the AFCA poll. Concord plays its fifth and final September game this season at Shepherd University, which is 19th in the list.

But Justice’s focus is on the Bears and getting off to a 1-0 season start.

Justice said, “The South Atlantic Conference has traditionally been a very strong conference. It’s still a great, great conference. It has always had sound, solid football teams. They always seem to have great quarterbacks who can control and manage games successfully.”

“Lenoir-Rhyne has a lot of good players. They have a solid defense, a veteran team. They play sound and they play hard. And that’s what we want. We want to be a sound, tough-nosed football team, and we’ll be tested by this competition.

“It should be a good game.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

Text Only
College Sports
Local Sports
Sports Videos
Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent First impressions of Giants' new up-tempo offense Athletic Gaines: Where LeSean McCoy, Kenjon Barner, and more prepare for NFL season Jack White's Cub Face How Emmanuel Mudiay Ended Up in China Sterling says he's not trying to block Clippers sale Selig: MLB 'more popular today than ever' Eli, Giants learning new offense Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Longhorns Coach Disses Texas With Compliment - @TheBuzzeronFOX How Will Wiggins Deal Impact Potential Love Trade? Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Dareus fails conditioning test, Watkins lifts spirits Clay Travis On Mettenberger Punch & "Dumbest Fanbase" - @TheBuzzeronFOX Bowlsby talks cheating in NCAA Kluwe: How can Tony Dungy advocate felons, not Michael Sam 105-year-old woman throws first pitch McIlroy wins British Open, Tiger finishes 69th Astros, Aiken fail to reach deal Could Rousey beat Mayweather?
Pro Sports