Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 28, 2013

Defense in spotlight for Lions-Hilltoppers tussle

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ATHENS — Technically, the football belongs to the offense in a play from scrimmage. The Concord and West Liberty football teams look at it another way — their defenses are always anticipating that the other side is about to give it up.

Both programs, which will meet this afternoon in the Northern Panhandle, have got some statistics on their side.

Concord is fifth in NCAA Division II in total defense and in points allowed, and third nationally in preventing third-down conversions. Their hosts are 18th in the nation in total defense, second in fewest points allowed, and third in red zone defense.

“Saturday’s outcome will probably be because we take care of the football,” Concord coach Garin Justice said on a Mountain East Conference teleconference call on Wednesday. “The turnover margin may well be the No. 1 decider of the football game.”

Looking at tape of the Hilltoppers’ defense is “almost like we’re looking in the mirror,” Justice said. “They have a lot of fast, athletic guys that can run around and make plays. ... It’s a very good defense.”

West Liberty head coach Roger Waialae said about Concord, “They’re really good. ... Really, they have no weaknesses.” He said he was impressed with “how hard they play the whole game, for 60 minutes.”

Both teams are 2-1 and unbeaten in the conference. Concord took its first loss last Saturday, a close 16-10 decision in a non-conference contest at Bowie State University in Maryland.

The Mountain Lion defense was strong in that game, too. Lineman Keith Ferguson had 10 tackles and a sack and teammate Anthony Pyle had six tackles and a sack.

Jake Lilly increased his season tackle total to 33, and Riyahd Richardson picked off his 12th career interception.

On offense, Darrick Williams caught eight passes for 67 yards and Tiko Henderson caught five balls for 47 yards. Both have 15 receptions this year. Quarterback Brian Novak threw 47 times, completing 22 tosses for 175 yards.

“That’s way too many attempts,” Justice said, “but that sometimes happens when you’re behind and you’re forced to throw the football a lot.”

West Liberty, which has scored one offensive touchdown this year, topped West Virginia State 9-0 last weekend.

Concord defeated West Liberty 21-3 in Athens last season. Lilly had 11 tackles in that game, and the Mountain Lions got interceptions from Richardson, Davon Marion, Mike Carey and Mike Hodeib.

— Contact Tom Bone at