By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
When the lights came on for Concord’s spring game, it was the Mountain Lions’ defense who took center stage.
The first and second string Concord defenses combined to limit the Mountain Lions’ offense to just two touchdowns and a field goal while forcing 11 turnovers.
“Offensively, we were horrible,” Concord head coach Garin Justice said. “We had 11 turnovers. We were poor across the board.
“I know our defense is good, but they’re not that good. That’s what I told them afterwards. Defensively, I’d like to think maybe we could account for maybe two, three or four.
“When you turn it over 11 times with a running clock, that’s embarrassing. The offense guys have to step up and be leaders.”
It wasn’t the type of ending many were hoping for after a full spring of hard workouts and practices.
Justice said it was disheartening “for the fact that was the first time we were playing in front of some people. The lights came on and they kind of lost it. It’s a growing experience.”
Not all was bad this spring for the offense according to the head coach.
“The good news is all spring we didn’t commit 11 turnovers in all the practices combined,” he added. “That’s encouraging. It was probably our worst offensive day all spring.”
Albert Rose and Brian Novak are in a two-way battle for the starting quarterback position. Rose saw some time last season after Zach Grossi went down while Novak was red-shirted.
Neither was particularly impressive as both had several interceptions and mishandle snaps.
“I was expecting better play than what I saw,” Justice commented. “They’ve both been neck-and-neck all spring. I thought Albert probably had a slight advantage coming into today.
“Novak had made some plays. I’ll have to look at the film, but when you turn the ball over that many times, neither one of them played that great.”
Rose had several well-thrown completions to Tiko Henderson while Novak found Sam Wright and Tyler Smith for big plays.
Wright had a nice 21-yard gain on a well-executed screen pass and did some damage on the ground. Calvinaugh Jones also had a good series that saw him break free for several big runs.
“I think we ran the ball pretty well other than the hold calls,” Justice said. “We had the hold calls, the botched snaps and couple key injuries up front that hurt us some. I thought Sam Wright was a bright spot.
“Shaun Workinger made some plays. Coleman Osborne maybe took every single rep all spring. There are some positives and some things we can build off. We just have to continue to take that step and get better.”
The coaching staff was pleased with the defense which has been the strength for the team the past few seasons.
The defense had several sacks, a handful of fumble recoveries and interceptions led by Shamel Wright’s two picks.
“I think the defensive line did a good job coming off the ball,” Justice said. “Jake Lilly, Davon Marion, and Riyahd Richardson – those guys always play well. Those are names you see week in and week out.
“Anthony Pilot, defensive end, is going to be someone who is going to make a huge impact for us. Anthony would have probably had five sacks if they would have blown the whistle. Anthony is an Air Force transfer who is going to be special for us.”
With spring football now in the rear view mirror, Justice hopes his players finish out the year at Concord strong not only on the field, but in the classroom.
“Next week is a dead week and the following week is finals,” he said. “We’ve got to do a good job in the classroom. Let’s keep the core guys that we have here intact that way we can take what we learned in the spring and build on it the fall.”
There will be plenty of time spent away from campus for many of the Mountain Lions, Justice hopes the players will continue to build on what they learned this spring and be ready come fall.
“I just want to see them continue to get better,” he said. “Dedicate themselves in the weigh room, do what they need to do skill wise to come in ready to play. Hopefully, we can take where are in spring and continue from there and not take a step back.
“The guys do have the right mindset. They’re down on themselves offensively. They’ll pick themselves back and they’ll attack it they way the need to.
“They’ll be ready come August.”
The Mountain Lions open their 2013 season on September 7 in North Carolina against Lenoir-Rhyne.