By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
The season finale of Concord University football today shapes up to be quite a chess game between the Mountain Lions’ defense and the offense of their hosts, West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The defense of Concord (6-4, 5-2 in conference play) is ranked 14th in all of NCAA Division II, and sixth in passing defense.
Jake Lilly is fourth nationally in total tackles, with 116 tackles or assists in 10 games.
Cornerback Riyadh Richardson has successfully defended 15 pass attempts, good for 11th in Division II. Four of those were interceptions, tying him with Kevin Elliott for the top number in the West Virginia Conference.
Davon Marion, who is finishing up his career today, is a turnover specialist with three interceptions and two forced fumbles this season. He also has 52 solo tackles.
The Buckhannon-based Bobcats (3-7, 2-5) counter with the league’s current offensive player of the week, Nate Montana.
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana is 10th in Division II in passing, averaging 25 completions and 285 yards per game. This season, his first with Wesleyan, he has 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Bobcats are 15th nationally in passing offense.
Concord head coach Garin Justice said, “I’ll put my defense up against anyone ... because they’ve had so much success against all kinds of teams.”
The Mountain Lions have seen spread offenses, wishbones, vertical passing games and power run teams on their way to their fourth straight winning season, something the CU football program has not done for 20 years.
“The biggest thing I’m seeing,” Justice said, “is that the offense is finally taking care of the ball, and the defense is getting the ball back. When that happens, it usually results in wins for your football team.”
He said about Montana, “He’s got a great pedigree. He’s a guy that’s had some 400-yard games, (and) he seems to be playing his best ball right now.”
Despite the Bobcats’ big falloff in wins from last year, when they were 9-2, Justice said, “They are a dangerous team.”
He said last weekend’s 21-3 victory against West Liberty “was a good prep for (Wesleyan). Hopefully, we can carry some of our preparation into (today’s) game.”
Concord had 174 yards passing and 117 yards rushing in its final home game.
Senior Evin Dusold has completed 59.4 percent of his passes, and seven of his throws have gone for touchdowns.
Randall Hawkins, with 52 receptions, needs 10 more to tie for sixth place all-time among Concord pass-catchers. Ansel Ponder, who also has 52 catches, will wrap up his college career trying to add to his season totals of 658 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Freshman Calvinaugh Jones averages 4.1 yards per rush, and short-yardage runner Ben Nester has scored touchdowns in each of the last five games.
Last fall, Concord and West Virginia Wesleyan met in a de-facto league championship game, and the Mountain Lions beat the Bobcats 48-40 in Athens to claim their first football crown since 1990. There’s a lot less at stake today, but don’t expect a letdown in effort by CU.
“These guys are a fun group to coach,” Justice said. “They’re highly motivated. They’re highly competitive. They love to compete; they love football. We as coaches have to sometimes tell ’em whoa instead of go.
“They’d play football every day if we let them.”
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