ATHENS, W.Va. — Winners of each of their first three games, the Concord Mountain Lions are off to their best start since 2014, when they finished the regular season undefeated.
Since that memorable season, Concord has struggled to generate wins and averaged two victories a season.
Dave Walker, a former legendary Martinsburg football coach, has his team moving in the right direction. Concord is one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the Mountain East Conference.
CU is already one victory from matching its win total from last season when the Mountain Lions finished 4-6.
“I felt like our goal last year was to be competitive. You have to be competitive before you can be successful,” Walker said. “We were competitive, but we only won four games. Several of the losses were one-possession games. I think this year we want to build upon it, and I think we have. I know it is coach speak, but there is still room for improvement.”
Walker is no stranger to rebuilding programs. Before taking over at Martinsburg, Walker’s first head coaching gig at East Hardy came after the Cougars had won only seven games in the previous nine seasons.
Walker then turned Martinsburg into a perennial powerhouse, one that’s been the most successful high school program in West Virginia over the last decade-plus.
Walker stepped into the Mountain Lions’ vacant position in December 2019 and became the school’s 20th head football coach. He dealt with early trials and tribulations, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic restricted Walker from going through his first spring practice. The MEC decided to play its football games in the spring of 2021. Concord ultimately only played one game out of the five it had scheduled that season. Later that calendar year, Concord returned to play in the fall and finished within one victory of a .500 season.
“It was the first time we were able to do our strength and conditioning stuff,” Walker said of the 2022 offseason. “Last year was like a normal year, and we treated it as such. It benefited us to get our guys bigger, faster, and stronger.”
Although he’s now at the college level, Walker is applying the same mindset he had while steering East Hardy and Martinsburg in the right direction.
“I want us to be contenders,” Walker said. “I don’t talk much about wins and losses, but I feel like this place is unique. There is so much potential here. Throughout the years, Concord University has had tremendous players and traditions. We want to add and build onto that as well. Concord is a great place to be, and we are excited and having fun doing what we do.”
The Mountain Lions take on the defending MEC champion Frostburg State at 1 p.m. Saturday in a battle of unbeaten.
Concord’s defense will be heavily relied on against the Bobcats, especially its ability to limit the run. The Mountain Lions are second in the MEC in rushing yards allowed per game, allowing 109 on average. On the flip side, Frostburg State is averaging 226 rushing yards through three games, which is second in the MEC.
“We certainly have our work cut out this weekend,” Walker noted. “Frostburg is probably the top team in our league. They are physical and they come at you. It will be a big task for us, and I think that makes it exciting.”
Former Martinsburg standout Jarod Bowie, the 2019 MetroNews Player of the Year, has been the catalyst for Walker’s offense. Bowie is atop the MEC with 19 receptions for 353 yards. He has made a strong return after suffering a season-ending injury last season.
“I have known Jarod since middle school,” Walker said. “He is talented and a special player. Jarod has continued to progress. He had to overcome his injury last season, and he has picked it back up where he left off. Jarod has so much natural ability, but he has a better understanding of coverages, the game and route running.”