The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 3, 2014

Concord spring game ends in 10-10 tie

ATHENS — Garin Justice would not let the Concord University spring football game end 3-3 at the end of regulation.

Instead, the offenses finally turned it on in an ad-hoc overtime sequence of two series, and the 2014 Maroon and Gray Game ended 10-10 Saturday afternoon at Callaghan Stadium-June O. Shott Field.

“Good job!” Justice told his huddle after the two units again became one at the end of the game. “We’re a better football team than we were a month ago.”

Talking to the media a few minutes later, the CU head coach said, “I wanted to extend (the game) a little bit, just to give those guys some confidence, and I think we did that. When you have a running clock, you’re never going to expect the score to be that high.”

Redshirt freshman Jamal Petty and veteran wide receiver Tiko Henderson left a glowing final impression in the overtime.

Petty tore through the defense for a 35-yard gain on the first play of the extra period.

On the next snap, he ran far to the right. At first contact with a wall of defenders, he bounced away, cut back across the field, turned the corner and crossed the goal line on a 16-yard run that gave “Team Pennington” a brief 10-3 lead after Andy Ellington’s point-after kick.

“I guess I got a little lucky on that hit,” Petty said. “I was able to turn back, then I just saw green in front of me and ran that way.”

“It was really crucial (to score a touchdown). We had to put the spring game away. I was just trying to do my best out there, and win a spot.”

Quarterback Brian Novak answered on the next series, completing passes of 22 and 48 yards. The latter one was a beauty, as Henderson ran under a nicely-timed aerial and reached the end zone on a 48-yard catch and run.

Ellington’s point-after for “Team Dawson” ended the game.

The two units were under the direction of assistant coaches Pat Dawson and John Pennington.

Novak, who started most of Concord’s games last fall as a freshman, threw for 196 yards unofficially. He was 12 for 23 passing, but several of his incompletions were the result of desperation heaves and lack of communication on route running.

He didn’t have the longest completion. That honor belonged to Austin Dotson, who usually plays linebacker. He lined up as a flanker on a trick play, took a pitch from quarterback Ben Nester, and issued a tight spiral pass to Jeremiah Johnson for 56 yards.

Pennington said, “I told the team, on the second play, no matter what happens, we’re going to have Austin throw that pass. We called the play ‘Happy.’ ... It happened to work out. We kind of wanted to set the tone.”

Tight end Dalton Brindo caught five balls for 74 yards and was Novak’s prime target.

Novak said targeting Brindo was “definitely by design.” The quarterback said, “He’s a big body. He’s got great hands, probably some of the best hands on the team. We need to utilize him more than we did last year.”

Petty rushed six times for 65 yards. He hurt his ankle early in the second quarter and did not touch the ball again until overtime.

The Mountain Lions’ primary rushing threat, Calvinaugh Jones, ran four times for 20 yards in the first series of the game and then was pulled so other runners could get a chance.

The defense held the advantage for most of regulation. Ellington made field goals of 33 and 28 yards to end the first two series, followed by a long scoreless streak. The linebackers were particularly active, led by Gary Saylor and Jonathan Hagins.

Saylor said, “It was nice to come out here and give the fans a little something, and hit some people back and forth. It was just a lot of fun, today.”

Senior defensive back Mike Carey said, “A lot of the young guys stepped it up this year. They’re helping us put the pieces together like it was last year, or even be better than last year. ... We’re going to get the job done.”

Novak said, “Last year, we had the same problem we had today. We started slow. We finished strong,” Novak said. “We just need to continue getting better, but as a whole, our offense took the next step we need to take to be dominant, so that was good to see.”

Saylor said, “The offense got a lot better. They were out here working very hard. (On defense), I feel like we’re not going to miss a beat, (but) just keep on pushing forward. No need to look back.”

The quarterback competition is expected to continue when the team returns in August. Novak said, “I want to be the guy here. Everybody knows that.”

“I think as an offense, we’ve gotten a lot better, even myself, at not turning the ball over. And even if we don’t convert or score touchdowns, we’re not putting them in good field position, so that’s a huge thing we’ve gotten better at, too.

Justice said he felt the spring game was a success simply because “we didn’t have any major injuries.”

“Overall, the energy, the enthusiasm, I’ve been pleased the whole spring,” the coach said. “It’s taken a few years, but I think our culture is finally in a good place. The guys competed, and that’s kind of what we want to hang our hat on. Regardless of where we’re at, or what we do, we always want to compete.”

That was true also of Dawson and Pennington, in their first crack at running a college team.

“It’s a little bit different when you’re the guy pulling the trigger,” Dawson said. “You’ve got to be ready for everything.”

“Man, it was a lot of fun,” Pennington said. “Coach Justice does a good job of giving us opportunities to take on responsibilities. But it was a little more stress, more to worry about.”

Carey said about going up against teammates throughout the spring, “It gets aggravating. You want to play another team, so bad. But as long as we have the mentality that we need this spring to get better, and we want to win a national ranking and stuff like that, we’ve got to go hard in the spring.”

“You go hard, but you never hurt your own teammates, because at the end of the day we need each other.”

Novak said, “I’m tired of going against our guys. Our guys are great. We enjoyed it, we enjoyed every minute of it, but we’re ready to see another team across the ball from us.”

That will take place on Saturday, Sept. 6 in Athens, with Glenville State College visiting to begin the 2014 regular season.

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