By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Concord football team has a long history of players from Bluefield High School, including the current Beavers head coach Fred Simon and presently a trio of former Beavers are important cogs in the Mountain Lion program.
Ansel Ponder, Jake Lilly and Keith Ferguson are all proud Beavers who are significant contributors to the Lions’ success this season.
Ponder is in his first year in Athens. The wideout began his collegiate career at Division I Western Michigan University and played against powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State. Ponder fulfilled his degree requirements earlier this year in Kalamazoo and decided to come home and use his final year of NCAA eligibility at Concord.
“It’s very exciting to be back in the area, especially playing in front of the fans, playing with some teammates I played with in high school,” Ponder said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to play with them again on another level and I’m excited about it.”
Jake Lilly, a 5-9 200 lb., junior, won his second WVIAC Defensive Player of the Week Award following his 18-tackle performance against Division I Liberty University this past Saturday, a game in which the Mountain Lions came within a touchdown of pulling off the upset. Lilly, as Ponder, relishes the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd.
“I like playing with my old teammates, Keith (Ferguson), Ansel (Ponder), Will (Cole), when he played, Marcus (Patterson) when he came here,” Lilly said. “That’s the fondest part I’ve had, just staying at home, the family coming and watching. It’s always good to have support, someone you can talk to after the game and someone to come and watch you means a lot.”
With regard to his defensive accolades against the Flames of Liberty, Lilly gave credit to the CU defensive front.
“I don’t credit it (18 tackles) to myself, I credit it to my defensive line,” Lilly said. “We had four d-linemen rotating the whole game... It was just a great effort from them to let me make my plays, they opened holes I could scrape through and tackle the running back or whoever had the ball.”
Keith Ferguson is the “baby of the bunch” of Beavers at Concord. A true freshman, Ferguson is a starter at defensive tackle who, like his fellow Beavers, likes the idea of playing near home.
“It’s great to know that you’re playing in front of people you’ve always played before,” Ferguson said. “You’ve got your family there every game, people that have watched you play... It gives you a boost, makes you go out there and play harder. It’s a good thing to be close to home.”
CU head coach Garin Justice said each one of the players has a big impact on this year’s team.
“Jake’s everywhere on the field. People around Bluefield have probably seen it since he was playing pee wee ball and he’s continued to succeed at every level he’s played at,” Justice said. “You can’t say enough about Jake’s effort. Jake is kind of the heart and soul of our defense and he does a great job week-in and week-out.”
Justice is pleased with the work effort and progress of Ferguson along the defensive front.
“Ferg is a guy that plays with extreme effort, he’s an energy guy,” Justice commented. “He’ll make mistakes in practice, but when it’s game time, when the lights are on, he turns on and you see the motor, the energy and enthusiasm he plays with. It’s addictive and he rubs off on other people and that enthusiasm helps the team.”
Ponder, though new to the Concord team, brings experience to the squad on and off the field.
“Ansel’s a grown man. He’s been kind of a mature voice for the younger wideouts that we have, ‘This is how a D-1 receiver does things,’” Justice observed. “He has taken that role and he’s not wanted the spotlight, he’s not wanted the football, and he’s not gotten discouraged. He’s been an excellent leader, an excellent addition and it has been a seamless fit.”
Ponder spoke more on the role he plays with the younger players.
“I feel like I can offer some kind of advice because I’ve been in that situation where it’s hard to go home and study. You’ve got four, or five classes, it’s sometimes hard, but you’ve just got to find an ambition within, after you have a long practice, to get the (class) work done. I help out a little bit and try to offer some advice,” Ponder said.
Lilly credits the system at Bluefield High School in helping him become the player he is today.
“Coach Simon’s program has always been one of the best programs in the state,” Lilly said. “I’m glad I went there and had the opportunity to play there. The weight program, the running, Coach Simon - the way he coaches, of course he played at the college level, he knows how to prepare you and get ready for this level.”
Ferguson said there are two big differences in football at Bluefield High and Concord, speed and strength.
“In high school I was either faster or a little bit stronger than the other person,” Ferguson observed. “Here, everyone is strong, everyone is fast. It’s who wants it more, who is more determined, who works harder... Who wants it more.”
Asked what he has learned in his freshman year of collegiate football, Ferguson said, “Never settle for anything... Never settle for less. Always get better, keep going, always believe you can get better and have your head on straight.”
Ponder, Lilly and Ferguson, along with the rest of the Mountain Lions take to the field Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock, hosting Fairmont State.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org