ATHENS — It’s been 22 months since the last snap of an intercollegiate football game in Athens.
That gridiron gap looks to be closed at 2 p.m. today when the Concord Mountain Lions and the Bobcats of West Virginia Wesleyan College are scheduled to collide at Callaghan Stadium on June O. Shott Field.
The advantages of a home game will be “huge,” said Dave Walker, who will be making his home debut as Concord head coach.
“I’m excited just to be able to play at home, and have some of our community and our students and fans to be here,” he said at a press conference earlier this week. “ I know our guys are really looking forward to it.”
“These guys will be excited just to see their families, being able to come and watch them play. … I think it’ll be special for them,” he said. “Concord traditionally has a good presence at the home games, and good attendance, so I’m looking forward to the atmosphere.
“And, hopefully, we perform really well, so it gives our fans a lot of cheering to do.”
The Mountain Lions (0-1) began their season with a 17-10 loss at Glenville State College on Sept. 9.
Jack Mangel threw for 402 yards in that game for CU, the first time a Concord quarterback went over 400 passing yards in a game since Brian Novak, late in 2016. Mangel broke the school record for single-game completions (36) and attempts (51).
Jarod Bowie caught 15 balls for 204 yards and one touchdown. The 15 receptions were second-most in an NCAA Division II game so far this season. Tywan Pearce made six catches for 101 yards, moving into fifth place on Concord’s all-time catch list.
Bowie played for Walker in high school at Martinsburg. The coach described him as “scrappy, good kid, works hard, and a competitor.” Walker said that the freshman wideout is “a game changer — but we’ve got to be able to spread it around a little more as well.”
The Mountain Lions netted just 50 yards on the ground. Freshman Justin Lee ran 15 times for 70 yards but Mangel was listed for negative-28 yards in the rushing stats, which included six sacks.
At Glenville, the Concord defense racked up eight tackles for loss of yardage and recovered four fumbles. Veteran Dwain Porterfield had 2.5 sacks and seven total tackles. Newcomer Rashon Lusane made nine solo tackles.
Concord’s new defensive coordinator, Logan Williams, held the same job at Wesleyan in 2019.
West Virginia Wesleyan is 0-2, after a 45-3 loss to Division I Drake University and a forfeit loss last week due to covid, but Walker said the Bobcats are “a solid team.”
“They pass the ‘eye test,’” the coach said. “They’ve got some good-looking kids. It’s just a matter of putting together plays, and performing.”
“We can’t turn the ball over, can’t have stupid penalties. We’ve got to finish,” he said. “We’ve just got to compete, and eliminate as many mistakes as we can.”
Against Glenville, Walker said, “I really liked our effort. I thought our guys played hard. We played fast. … I thought we didn’t handle adversity well at times. But I think there are things we can fix. I did see more positive than negative, though we didn’t win the game.”
Walker said there is “still a lot of football left to be played. Our season is not going to be made or broken on one game at this point, especially the first game.”
The last time the Athenians earned a win at Callaghan Stadium was a 28-24 comeback victory over West Virginia Wesleyan on Nov. 2, 2019.
Walker’s debut as a college head coach came in March as Concord won at Wesleyan 52-14. Mangel threw for 310 yards and five touchdowns in that game, and Pearce had 10 receptions, two of which were scoring plays.
Concord has won 10 of its last 12 contests with the Bobcats to extend its lead in the all-time series to 23-14-1.