ATHENS — Perfection is certainly hard to come by, but two Concord football teams have won 11 games in a season without a loss — 1980 and this year, according to available but somewhat incomplete statistics.
The 1980 team, led by hall of fame coach Tony Colobro, ran through its regular slate 10-0, and won the conference’s Coal Bowl postseason game in Summersville, beating Shepherd 19-0.
After every game, the team would play the hit song “Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen, on an eight-track tape in the locker room, said Tom Bay of Princeton, a linebacker on the 1980 squad.
“Eddie Rankin, the linebacker who played beside me, would get up on the table where we wrapped ankles and dance,” Bay said on Monday evening. “I’ll always remember that.”
The 11-0 record sent the Mountain Lions into the Division I playoffs of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The season ended at Bluefield’s Mitchell Stadium in a 17-14 defeat by Elon (N.C.) College, the eventual national champion.
One thing Bay remembers is “we had two touchdowns called back,” he said.
The current edition of Concord football has an identical 11-0 record and won the right to host a playoff game at noon Saturday on the Athens campus in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
What does it take to go 11-0 in college football?
Marty Lytton of Princeton, a freshman on the 1980 team, said on Monday, “Of course, back then it was no different than now. You’ve got to have coaching. We had Coach Colobro, (Marvin) Williams as defensive coordinator, (John) Pinter as offensive coordinator.
“You’ve got to have that, and a group of guys willing to give everything they’ve got, week in and week out.”
Bay, who was a member of the junior class that season, said, “Everybody’s got to stay together, and stay on the same page. We had a good unity.” He added, “We had a bunch of hard hitters.”
Bay said he was on the offensive line for his first “three or four weeks” at Concord, and hated it.
“One day, I was at guard, and I ran down the line of scrimmage and met up with a guy at the end, and lifted him up a few feet off the ground, up into the air,” he said. “Coach Colobro said, ‘Bay! You get over there with the defense!’ That’s where I stayed.”
Bay said that Colobro was “a great, great coach.”
Lytton said, “There’s only going to be one Coach Colobro. He’s not only a great man on the field but a great man off the field also. He’s everything you would expect of a great coach, and beyond.”
At age 90, Colobro still attends some Concord games and is a father figure in the program, according to current head coach Garin Justice. Colobro, a Bluefield resident and Welch native, graduated from Concord in 1948, after serving in World War II.
Lytton said he got on the field in 1980 as a freshman by playing on special teams, and was the holder on extra-point and field-goal attempts. In the playoff, due to roster limits, he was not among those who suited up, but he was present at Mitchell Stadium.
“I may not have been down there but I was up in the stands rooting for them,” he said.
He said about that season, “It was a huge accomplishment, the first time ever in Concord’s football history (that) they made it that far.”
He hasn’t been able to watch the current Concord team in action because he works Saturdays at a Princeton auto dealership. However, he said, “The first thing I do when I come in is to ask the wife, ‘Did Concord win?’ ”
“I’ve definitely got hopes that they can go on and continue (to win), and from what I’ve seen and heard and read, they’ve got an excellent chance of doing so.”
Bay said, “I’m just thrilled to death that Concord has finally risen up to where we were 34 years ago. It’s just wonderful to see us up in the running this year.”
He said he’s seen “at least four” Concord games this season.
“I know the team we’re up against is pretty tough,” he reported. “When you get to the playoff level, you don’t have a lot of room for error. I just hope we can minimize mistakes and play a good, solid game. If they can do that, they have a really good chance.”
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Jeff Boyles played quarterback for Colobro at Concord in the late 1970s, as the program developed from doormat status to national playoff contender.
“It all started with Coach Colobro,” Boyles said. “We all came in 1974, and by 1977 we were in the national playoffs.”
“It was a heck of a feeling,” he said. “As a player at the time, we didn’t recognize what an accomplishment, what a milestone it was. ... As you get older, you say, hey, that was quite an accomplishment.”
In 1977, Concord traveled to Westminster, Pa., and took a 14-13 loss in the NAIA Division II first round. Boyles said, “At that time ... only took four teams in the country.” Westminster then beat Cal Lutheran in the championship game.
Boyles said, “It was great to be in the national spotlight and to be representing what was, at that time, Concord College. As a player, we were just playing the next game. We were just wanting to win a football game.”
“Coach Colobro just kind of taught us expect to win. It was not a big deal; it was what you were expected to do.”
Elon, Concord’s opponent in 1978, ’80 and ’81, was “a good football team,” he recalled. “A lot of people don’t realize this. We’re playing against the Elons, the Westminsters, where they had maybe 20, 30, 40 scholarships. We didn’t have any ... .
“We were there on ‘a whole lotta loan and work study,’ like Coach (Colobro) used to say.”
He said those Concord teams were also mostly drawn from students living within a 100-mile radius of Athens.
“They were kids that wanted to play football, and gave it their all, but it all goes back to the coach,” he said. “I love Coach (Colobro), and I think all who played for him feel the same way.
“He could coach somebody right now, here today, and still be successful,” Boyles said. “It’s a blessing just to be around Coach Colobro. We’ve all been very lucky to have known him and continue to know him.”
He said about his collegiate playoff years, “We just had a blast. We didn’t know the difference between NAIA and N-C-double-A. ... The divisions really don’t matter. The bottom line was, tee it up and play a football game against other people that want to win.”
With regard to the 2014 team, he said, “All of us who played for Concord are so proud of them, and wish them all the luck,” Boyles said. “As alumni we are very, very proud of them. ... They’ve made this area very proud and I’m sure they will continue.”
He said, “I think Coach (Garin) Justice has done a super, super job of blending the local talent with those from elsewhere.”
“We feel like we did kind of set the bar,” he said jokingly. “Hopefully that will get them to move above us. It would be great for Concord to do that.”
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The Mountain Lions were 0-7 in their NAIA football playoff appearances, which began in 1977 and ended in 1992.
The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference switched from the NAIA to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1995, and Concord went along.
The Athenians’ WVIAC championship in 2011 carried with it an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II playoffs. Concord lost in the first round, on the road.
Concord University earned its first NCAA national football ranking this year, and is 10th in the latest Division II poll conducted by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). A final poll will be released on Dec. 22, according to the AFCA website.
Colobro said this month he did research on the 1980 team, and that Concord was ranked second in NAIA Division I in 1980 after beating Shepherd in the Coal Bowl. The Mountain Lions were tied for sixth in the final rankings that year, he said.
David Renner, the quarterback in 1980, was named conference offensive player of the year. He and receiver-punter Lynn Pendergraft received NAIA second-team all-American honors after that season.
The 1923 team finished its season 7-0 under first-year coach W.S. “Pedie” Jackson. Along the way, Concord defeated Marshall College 9-6, East Tennessee 32-0 and Bluefield College 37-0 in their season finale, according to a history of Concord football compiled by former athletics director Charles K. “Bo” Baxter.
The Athens squad also gained wins over Welch High School and the Mullens American Legion.
There is no mention of postseason play in 1923. Concord became a charter member of the West Virginia Conference when it formed the next year.
— Contact Tom Bone at