The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 9, 2012

Mistakes doom Mountain Lions

ATHENS — A very good football team will capitalize on key injuries and multiple mistakes by their opponent.

That’s what the Rams of Winston-Salem State University did Saturday afternoon on Concord University’s home field, taking a 30-22 road win over the Mountain Lions in a game that was drenched by rain midway through.

“We were able to weather the storm,” said Rams head coach Connell Maynor.

Concord (1-1) had nine penalties for 108 yards, achieved just 11 first downs, and had to punt nine times against the Rams (2-0), ranked eighth nationally in last week’s Division II poll.

The starting right guard for the Mountain Lions, Cody Parker, could not play due to a stress fracture in his foot suffered earlier in the week. Cornerback-kick returner Riyadh Richardson left in the first quarter with a hurt ankle. Running back Andrew Gondor limped off after four rushes for seven yards.

And Concord had 19 yards rushing, not counting a loss of 32 when punter Brad Cox had to track down a high snap in his own end zone, resulting in a safety.

“I’ve got to get the run game established,” Concord head coach Garin Justice said. “It’s hard to ask Zack (Grossi) to throw 40 times and win.”

Grossi threw 39 times, completing 23, two of which went for touchdowns. He had one interception, and often had to dodge rushers in the pocket.

Justice, who also coaches the offensive line, said, “We played awful up front. It was a bad performance. ... I’ve got to make sure they’re producing on Saturdays.”

Linebacker Jake Lilly led the Concord defense with nine solo tackles and four assists, including 2 1/2 tackles for loss.

The Winston-Salem State offense gained 130 yards on the ground and 239 aerial yards, most of it from a 13-for-24 passing day by strong-armed quarterback Kameron Smith.

Lilly said, “We prepared all week for that running offense. We stopped it; we prepared all week for it.

“They had some amazing athletes, good talent,” he said, adding that Concord’s three-and-outs on offense wore down its defenders. “We just didn’t come out with a W,” he said.

Concord got the early momentum, holding the Rams to a three-and-out to start the game. On the punt try, Concord put on a maximum rush and senior linebacker Nick Spradlin blocked Landen Thayer’s kick and ran the ball in 21 yards to set up a 7-0 lead for the home team.

The visitors got the next 23 points. The Rams tied the game nine minutes later on an 81-yard drive capped when halfback Brandon McDonald took a pitch, stopped in his tracks and passed to Jamal Williams, wide open in the end zone.

Concord’s first three possessions on offense ended in two punts and an interception by Dominque Tate in the first minute of the second quarter.

Maynor said, “They [Concord] had the field position the whole first quarter, but our defense was able to hold.”

After Tate returned his interception 34 yards, the Rams capitalized with a 6-yard touchdown rush by Maurice Lewis, taking the lead for good. The tough 5-11 sophomore had 94 yards for the day, hauling the ball on 25 of the Rams’ 51 rushing attempts.

The torrential rain dampened the scoring in the second and third quarters.

Concord’s Kevin Elliott intercepted Smith to snuff out a Winston-Salem drive in the middle of the third period. Ansel Ponder caught three passes in the CU drive that followed, but came up a yard short on a fourth-down completion.

Smith picked on the Concord secondary for two touchdown strikes in the fourth quarter after the rain slackened, but the Mountain Lions also got their offense going late.

Grossi passed to Ryan Stewart across the middle and the receiver stretched his body across the goal line. The two-point conversion was successful as Ponder grabbed Grossi’s pass and planted his feet at the edge of the end zone, cutting the scoring gap to 23-15.

Ponder scored the game’s final touchdown with 3:26 left, making a fingertip catch along the home sideline and finishing off the 65-yard catch-and-run. But even after Andy Ellington’s point-after kick, Concord trailed by eight points.

Justice said, “I wish we’d been down by eight when we did that.”

Lilly, who played at Bluefield High School on the same team as Ponder, said, “When I saw that no one was on him, I knew nobody was going to catch him. I knew it was a TD as soon as he caught it.”

Ponder wound up with 117 yards on seven catches.

Winston-Salem State’s Jameze Massey had six receptions for 173 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown grab.

Thayer was called upon for seven punts and averaged 42.6 yards per kick for the Rams.

Maynor said, “You want to try to run it, complete the short pass, but it was that long pass that got the momentum turned around.”

He said, “In the second half, the storm was gone. Now it’s just time to play some football and execute. I expected a tough, four-quarter game that was going to go down to the wire.”

He said about Concord, “They’re a playoff team. They’re trying to build a program that’s in the playoffs every year. They’re doing that. They’re well coached. We’re lucky to get out of there with a win.”

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