CONCORD – Concord football coach Marty Paxton decided to change his team’s offensive philosophy heading into Friday night’s matchup against Monroe Sun Valley after the Spiders started the season 0-2 and scored just eight points versus Hickory Ridge last week.
Against Sun Valley, Concord quarterback JoJo Bond only attempted five passes, while the Spiders collectively carried the ball 37 times for 169 yards in a “flexbone” offense. Bond lined up under center with two backs split wide behind the offensive tackles and Cameron Sledge or Jacori James behind him.
The new-look offense proved to give Sun Valley fits as the game wore on, but mistakes doomed the Spiders, and they lost their third consecutive game of the 2019 season, 24-10, at E.Z. Smith Field.
Concord fell to 0-3 overall and has lost all but one of its 14 games over the past two years. But Paxton, a Concord alumnus, and his players believe the change in offenses could help the team make a turnaround.
The Spiders had six rushes of five yards or more in the first half Friday night and nine in the second half. In addition, they had a 29-yard passing touchdown in the third quarter.
“We wanted to get some quick hitters, get some yards,” said Paxton. “(Our players) like this offense much better because it’s quick-hitting so they can get there faster.”
The offensive line certainly seems to like the new offense.
“It’s really nice to know we’re creating holes that our running backs can run through,” said senior lineman Peter Petroff. “We have a really, really young front seven and corps of running backs. And we have a lot of injuries that have also derailed major senior starters.
“Our three heaviest linemen are all out, one of them with a season-ending injury,” Petroff added. “We’ve been crippled by that. Right now, we’re trying to run an offense that’s suited to our strengths, which is speed and leverage. I think that it’s really nice to know that we’re the ones creating holes for any running back in the backfield.”
However, ugly specters of the previous two games reared their head at inopportune times Friday night. Concord started the second half forcing a punt before taking over at its own 3-yard line. On the first play, Concord broke a big play up the sideline to get near midfield, but a flag brought the ball back to its own 14. Then a false start backed the Spiders up inside their 10, before Bond threw an interception that led to a Spartan touchdown. Later in the third, after Sun Valley scored to make it 17-10, the Spiders had another penalty on the kickoff to start their drive at their own 19.
Concord had three turnovers on the night, including two fumbles. The first one occurred with the Spiders driving inside the Sun Valley 35, and Bond got hurt on the play. He didn’t return.
What could have been a game-tying drive led to the Spartans’ third and final touchdown on the day to make it 24-10. On the ensuing drive, Deonte Brown replaced Bond, and a miscommunication on the handoff led to the ball hitting the ground and Sun Valley recovering.
There was more.
While Bond was able to hit for a 29-yard touchdown off play-action, twice he pulled the ball out and had a man running downfield. Whether it was miscommunication, the player losing the ball, or simply an overthrow, the Spiders failed to connect on the two big play opportunities.
“The play didn’t turn out in our favor,” Paxton said. “We had some open people; we just need another block or two, just another two steps faster, we’ve just got to get those plays together, man. The kids did great. . . We feel great with it, the kids like it, the kids feel great about it.”
The result was not what anyone on the Concord sideline wanted to see -- a promising effort derailed late in the game because of self-inflicted problems and some circumstances out of their control, like the Bond injury.
Yet Petroff was fired up, brimming with a fiery confidence that positive results will come.
“Well, the scoreboard shows nothing about how we played tonight,” Petroff said. “Man, we came out with something new. We’re not used to it yet, but we got it going there. The thing about it is we haven’t really jelled yet as an offense. Our defense is playing a little better. We’ve got to keep them off the field.”
So the question on everyone’s minds has to be can this Spider team turn it around?
In Paxton’s mind, a big part of the answer is more Spiders stepping up like Bond did. Not only did Bond command the offense, he also led the team in tackles with nine.
“We’ve got other kids that need to step up and do that -- and we will, they’re going to,” Paxton said. “We’ve tried to work a little bit, get together. We’ve got some guys who are working in it and learning it. We’ve just got to get to that point in the season where it cools off a bit and where more people can do it. That’s the big thing right now.”