ATHENS — As Concord University held its last football practice on Friday, Ola Adams didn’t need to be reminded that in the preseason head coach Greg Quick called each game “a championship contest.”

Adams, a four-year starter at defensive back and one of the team’s 12 seniors, said about Saturday’s game at Fairmont State, “This is bigger than a championship to me. This might be my last game ever, (if) I don’t get to play again. This is more than any Super Bowl to me.”

The Mountain Lions took a 1-9 season record into the game, but also took the fresh memory of a 10-0 shutout win over UNC–Pembroke last weekend, the school’s first shutout win since 1993, and a lot of longer-term views of their journeys.

Quick noted on Friday that the seniors were in his staff’s first recruiting class at Concord. “We have really watched them grow,” he said. The coach hosted the seniors for dinner on Thursday and enjoyed listening to their stories.

The senior class includes Joe Black, Ron Buskey, Justin Carter, Dustin Greenwood, Chris Harker, Doug Heath, Arther Jensen, Jared Palazzola, Chase Rivera, Tank Tunstalle and Adam Twitty.

“I feel like I grew up here,” said Adams, whose hometown is in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. “I mean, it’s a lot of memories. I’ve made a lot of friends.

“It’s definitely been a long journey, but I think it’s made me a good person, at the end of the day. It’s given me a lot of good experiences. I’m glad I made the decision to come here — still.

“I think I’ve grown in every way — mentally (as well as) physically. I got bigger, in football or whatever. Mentally, I got better at my schoolwork. Watching film, I’ve learned how to analyze games. I’ve learned a lot right here.”

Quick said that over the past four years, “There’s good days and there’s bad days. But they’re a fine group of young men. They’ve really matured over the last four years.”

He recalled last week’s shutout, and the 2004 team that finished with a winning record in conference play for the first time in years.

“They’ve persevered,” he said. “A lot of teams would’ve quit, when they haven’t.”

He said their attitude “doesn’t show up in the won-loss column, but I think it’s going to show up in their lives. And I think they’re all going to be very, very successful men, and take care of their families well, and be proud members of their communities, because of the traits they’ve learned here at Concord.”

Tunstalle is another senior looking at his last game in maroon and gray. Moving to linebacker from running back this summer, Tunstalle is eighth in NCAA Division II in tackles per game (12.1).

He said, “I appreciate everything that the coaches have done for me, my teammates believing in me.

“I thank God for giving me the chance to come out here, and for giving me my abilities. And I thank my parents for trusting me, giving me a chance to come out here and prove to them, not only to my coaches but proving to my parents that I’m ready to play and I’m willing to play.

“I think a combination of all that made me who I am today — and I thank them for it.”

Concerning his future plans, Adams said, “I’m going to, probably, student-coach here next year. And I’m going to still work hard in the off-season, in case I get the opportunity to go to some (pro) combines and stuff.”

Longer-range, he said, he is expecting “pretty much, whatever comes to me. I’ve got a job back home, so, either way, I’ll be all right.”

In last year’s Concord-Fairmont game, Adams picked off a pass in overtime and Tunstalle had 130 rushing yards to help the Mountain Lions to a 13-10 double-overtime win.

Last Saturday Greenwood, another senior, helped secure the victory with seven receptions, two spectacular tackles on special teams, and more senior leadership.

Quick said of Greenwood that day, “He did a wonderful job. ... I hope our young people watched him closely, because we’ll have a great football team if we can find 11 guys who’ll play like him every snap,” the coach said.

Adams recalled a favorite on-field moment with a far-away look and his trademark big smile.

“My freshman year, we were playing at Wesleyan,” he said, “and they had T.R. Dues line up at slot (receiver). He ran kind of a post on the opposite side of the field (from where) I was. It was right before half, and I went over and smashed him. That was probably the best hit of my life.”

Adams, who made first-team all-conference, seemed momentarily offended that he had to explain the result of the play. “He had the ball, but I jarred it out with the hit,” he said. “That was a pretty good play.”

And off the field? “I could go on a million stories with all these guys,” Adams said. “We had a good time together. ... It’s bigger than football. This is the last one. Twenty years from now, we’ll come back and talk with these guys. Off the field, we had a great time.”