Hilltoppers Offense Struggles Against Concord - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Hilltoppers Offense Struggles Against Concord

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Concord scored two touchdowns in a 12-second span of the second quarter to break open a close game and the nationally-ranked Mountain Lion defense took care of the rest in coasting to a 20-3 victory against West Liberty in Mountain East Conference action Saturday afternoon at Russek Field.

"I think we both came in here with similar game plans and they executed theirs better than we did,” Hilltopper head coach Roger Waialae said. “We didn’t tackle very well in the first half and we turned the ball over too much. We need to find a way to manufacture some offense but this is a team game and our team didn’t play well enough to win.”

Concord (3-1, 2-0) took a 6-0 lead on the strength of two long field goals – 48 and 42 yards – off the foot of sophomore kicker Andy Ellington in the first quarter but the Hilltoppers (2-2, 2-1) answered early in the second frame.

Senior safety Jovontae Johnson leaped high to intercept a long Mountain Lion pass at the West Liberty 25 and scampered all the way back into Concord territory with a 33-yard return to the CU 42.

The Hilltoppers kept the drive alive with a 26-yard pass from Dylan Lagarde to Dylan Potts, converting a third-and-15 from the 47, but the march stalled inside the Concord 5 and West Liberty settled for a 21-yard Bryan Arbes field goal.

Arbes’ kick cut the visitors’ lead to 6-3, setting the stage for the two biggest plays of the game.

The Mountain Lions picked up two first downs to move into Hilltopper territory at the WLU 45. Tailback Calvinaugh Jones took the next handoff and shot through a gap, shaking off a pair of would-be tacklers to break into the clear for a 45-yard touchdown run – the longest play allowed all season by the West Liberty defense.

Ellington tacked on the PAT for a 13-3 Concord lead with 7:24 left in the first half but things were about to go from bad to worse for the Black and Gold.

On the first snap following the kickoff, Mountain Lion safety Josh Clark stepped in front of a Lagarde pass at the WLU 32 and weaved his way across the field and down the left sideline for a touchdown. Ellington’s PAT put the Hilltoppers in a 20-3 hole with 7:12 left in the half.

“That was the first play-action we’d run all afternoon,” Waialae said. “Give Concord credit. Their corners and defensive backs made more plays than our quarterbacks and receivers. That’s a very good defense.”

The Concord defense had entered the game ranked in the Top 10 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, pass defense, first down defense and net punting so head coach Garin Justice basically turned the game over to his defense and special teams units for the rest of the afternoon.

The West Liberty defense, also ranked among the nation’s best, held the Mountain Lions to just 88 yards of total offense over the final 2 1/2 quarters but couldn’t force any more turnovers to flip the field for the Hilltopper offense.

After West Liberty finished the first half with just 74 yards of total offense, Waialae went with senior Tyler Tucci at quarterback over the final two quarters. Tucci completed 12-of-22 passes for 100 yards but the Hilltoppers were never able to threaten as Concord’s defense – with a big helping foot from punter Andrew Huska – kept West Liberty bottled up in its own end of the field throughout the final two quarters.

“I thought our defensive staff made some great adjustments at halftime,” Waialae said, “but offensively we just couldn’t sustain our drives. Field position was a big part of it. I thought we won the battle of field position in our first three games but that wasn’t the case today.”

Lagarde and Tucci combined to complete 17-of-32 passes for 146 yards with 2 interceptions. The Hilltoppers had 52 rushing yards on 28 carries, led by Kenjay Trueblood’s 40 yards on 11 attempts. Daree Goodwin led the receiving corps with 4 catches for 40 yards.

Jones, who had 13 carries for 100 yards at halftime, finished with just 132 yards on 32 carries to lead all rushers. Concord QB Brian Novak completed 12-of-18 passes for 127 yards with an interception.

West Liberty closes out its non-conference slate this week with a trip to Pittsburgh to take on NCAA Division I FCS Duquesne. Kickoff is set for 12:10 p.m. Saturday at Rooney Field.