By BOB REDD
The Concord University Mountain Lions return to Callaghan Stadium and WVIAC play this afternoon as the Fairmont State University Falcons swoop into town.
Last week the Lions took on Division I Liberty and nearly came away with the win, falling to the Flames 21-13 in Lynchburg, Va. Jake Lilly earned WVIAC Defensive Player of the Week honors with 18 tackles for Concord (4-4, 3-2).
Fairmont State enters the contest with a 3-4 mark, 3-2 in the WVIAC. Last Saturday the Falcons outscored Seton Hill 54-47 in conference play.
Defense will be key for the Mountain Lions. Lilly ranks sixth in the nation in total tackles. Concord will also rely on Ervin Moore, who blocked his second kick of the year at Liberty, and Kevin Elliot who had a career-high 11 tackles against the Flames. Riyahd Richardson picked off a pass and forced a fumble last week and has five pass break-ups in his last four games. Howard Johnson recorded 12 tackles at Liberty.
Concord head coach Garin Justice was pleased with his team’s performance against a higher level of competition.
“I can’t say enough about our guys effort. They came out and competed. The biggest thing we ask of our guys is to not be scared of competition, enjoy the competition, enjoy the aspect of the competitiveness, enjoy the challenge, and we did that. We came up short,” Justice said.
“If you look back on film there are some things we could have done better and we could have won, but as a coach you can’t be upset with how they played.”
The key today for the Mountain Lions will be stopping the run.
“They are a very good running offense,” Justice observed. “They have Daniel Monroe who is all-conference tailback for them. We’ve got to do a good job up front.”
Monroe is the third leading rusher in the WVIAC with 569 yards with four touchdowns. He is the reigning WVIAC Offensive Player of the Week after he scored three touchdowns and rushed for 139 yards against Seton Hill.
Offensively Concord has its weapons in wideouts Ansel Ponder and Randall Hawkins. Ponder has 493 yards and three scores on 39 receptions, while Hawkins has caught 44 passes for 409 yards. Since the career-ending injury earlier this season to Zach Grossi in an auto accident, both Evan Dusold and Albert Rose have seen time at quarterback. Dusold has passed for 355 yards and two touchdowns in two contests, while Rose has aired it out for 710 yards and three scores in five games.
Calvinaugh Jones is CU’s top rusher, checking in with 527 yards and one score, while fullback Ben Nester is the goal line specialist, scoring five TDs on 31 attempts, including a score last week at Liberty.
Concord has won its last three games against Fairmont State and is 6-4 against the Falcons over the past decade. Justice said however, that anything can happen in this game.
“It’s such a rivalry game and you never know what’s going to happen,” Justice said. “You can throw the records out the window. However, we have similar records, we’re both 3-2 in conference, so anything can happen.”
Justice believes the ground game will determine the winner.
“I think we’re going to have to out-rush them,” Justice commented. “If we out-rush them and take care of the football, if we can do those two things we’ll be all right.”
Concord is the defending WVIAC champion. Currently Shepherd, Charleston and Glenville State are leading the pack, each with one league loss. Justice is not worried about the conference championship at this point, but is focusing on the last three games of the season, a game at a time.
“I think if we win out, we still need other people to lose, but anything can happen,” Justice said. “It’s a crazy conference and you never know what can happen. We’ve got to just take care of ourselves.”
Kickoff between the Mountain Lions and Falcons is set for 1 p.m. and the broadcast can be heard on The Ticket 102.3.