Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 19, 2013

Surprising development

Concord turns to PV’s Nester vs. Bobcats

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ATHENS — The coaches of the Concord University football offense put in a lot of overtime last week, and it paid off Saturday as a totally revamped attack dominated in a 49-21 win over West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Ben Nester, who had last played quarterback as a PikeView High School student, stepped in as the surprise signal-caller and ran for 159 of Concord’s 403 rushing yards at chilly Callaghan Stadium-Shott Field. He ran for the first and last touchdowns for Concord (5-2, 4-1 Mountain East Conference).

The change took place because of a concussion sustained by quarterback Brian Novak on Oct. 12 in a loss at Urbana University, said Concord head coach Garin Justice.

Justice said, “You’ve got to really commend the way our offensive coaches developed a game plan — changed, kind of, who we are, but still stayed true to some fundamentals that we were doing. We were really able to develop an offense that was pretty potent today.”

“West Virginia Wesleyan, we probably blind-sided them a little bit.

The team’s usual I-formation handoffs and dropback passes were replaced by a zone-option and flip-tosses to slot receiver Tiko Henderson.

The new coach of West Virginia Wesleyan (2-5, 2-4), George Shehl, said, “It was stuff we weren’t prepared for, the read-zone, the spread-option ... They did a nice job of mixing it up.”

Nester said, “It was difficult, because we were putting a whole new offense to try to prepare for this week. We only had a week to put it in. But the guys caught up on it really quick. Our offensive line did a good job; the wideouts were making blocks.”

Nester tried six passes, completing two for 73 yards and having two intercepted.

“More than anything, we didn’t want to just throw everything at him this week,” Justice said. “We wanted to really be good at our zone read, our zone-option type stuff. ... We didn’t want to overload his plate. We wanted him to execute what he could.”

“He doesn’t throw it well, but he throws it good enough to keep a team honest, and that’s what he did today.”

The other major part of the game plan was to limit the possession time for West Virginia Wesleyan, which had thrown for more than 1,500 yards in their previous six games.

The Bobcats were limited to 181 total yards, 13 first downs, and had to punt five times.

“That’s a pretty impressive day,” Justice said. “It’s hard for them to produce a lot of points.”

The Mountain Lions were ahead 21-0 in the second quarter, on short touchdown runs by Nester, Calvinaugh Jones and Sam Wright.

The third score was set up when linebacker Gary Saylor deflected a pass by Wesleyan’s Jeremy Musselman. The ball bounced off the cast Saylor has been wearing on his arm, and landed in the hands of teammate Davon Marion, who ran the gift interception to the 2 yard line.

Saylor said, “I was happy because it got the defense off the field ... .” The cast, he said, “has its advantages and its disadvantages. I just try to make as many plays as I can, and hope it can be an advantage, and help us out.”

Musselman passed his team down the field again and threw a 14-yard scoring pass to trim the deficit to 14 points.

Concord scored the next 21 points to seal the win. Henderson has back-to-back touchdowns in the second quarter.

He scooped up the loose ball on a blocked punt and returned it 25 yards to the end zone.

“Russell Bailey got the block and I just happened to be behind (him) at the time,” Henderson said. “I didn’t expect it. It’s preparation all day, every week, and it just happened to go our way.”

The next scoring opportunity came when Concord linebacker Ervin Moore forced a fumble that teammate Keith Ferguson grabbed near midfield.

With half a minute left in the half, Henderson took a flip from Nester nine yards into the line, fighting for a tough touchdown.

Wesleyan fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and Concord recovered. Facing fourth down with the ball a couple of feet short of the goal line, Justice kept the offense on the field, and Wright carried the football to paydirt.

Justice said, “It was a kind of a win-win. I knew, also, if we could get that touchdown, we’d kind of bury ’em and put a nail in the coffin.”

Though far behind, the Bobcats mounted two scoring drives, with Connor Arlia catching his second touchdown pass of the day early in the fourth quarter.

Justice said, “It was 42-7, and they were able to take a drive, and march the field on our defense and get a good touchdown. That says a lot as far as their character of their team and the direction they’re headed.”

“They’re young, they’re going to continue to grow. I was really impressed with the way George has those guys playing.”

Shehl also had compliments for the program being run by Justice, who was once his teammate on the West Virginia University football team.

He said Concord’s unexpected offense “was not the difference today. They have a hard-playing, physical team.”

Jones ran for 106 yards for the Mountain Lions, who used seven backs. Henderson averaged 7.9 yards on eight carries, and contributed 38 return yards on special teams.

Musselman was 15 for 25 passing for 134 yards for Wesleyan.

Though Justice’s team has had its conference title hopes dimmed after last week’s loss to Urbana, the CU coach said, “We’ve got to finish out strong. This is something that we’ve really done, my two years as head coach, we always finish out strong at the end of the year.”

“I’m proud of those guys. They’re playing hard, they’re living the vision, they’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to do.”

—— Contact Tom Bone