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Concordia survives Belhaven

Concordia is off to its best start in school history, but just barely.

The Hornets improved their record to 3-0 with a 27-19 win over the Belhaven Blazers (0-2) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. However, Concordia nearly allowed its 27-6 first-half lead to evaporate.

“I’m happy to be 3-0, but I just want to be 3-0 the right way,” said coach Shepherd Skanes. “I don’t feel like we’re at that peaking point yet. When I get a victory with everybody on one accord and we all do the right thing, we’re going to be straight.”

Saturday’s game was the continuation of a disturbing trend Skanes has noticed in his team. In all three of the Hornets’ wins, they have had a strong start in the first half, followed by a poor second half.

Fortunately, for the third consecutive week, the Hornets overcame their mistakes and pulled out the win.

Belhaven opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run from quarterback Andrew Carcich. The run followed a personal foul facemask penalty on Concordia.

Concordia linebacker Brian Fulgham blocked the extra point, and Belhaven led 6-0.

Concordia was sluggish on offense in the early going. But following an incomplete pass from Ken Johnson on second-and-15 from the Concordia 13, the Blazers were penalized for pass interference, and the Hornets took on life.

They ate up chunks of yardage before Johnson hooked up with receiver John Halman for a 39-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead.

On the first play of the second quarter, Jami Baraka picked off a Carcich pass at the Hornet 47. Johnson hooked up with Dustin Ward for 33 yards. Two plays later, Johnson ran for a 13-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-6.

On its next possession, Concordia marched 97 yards on eight plays to score. D’Angelo Surls capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, further extending the lead to 21-6.

Following a three-and-out, Christopher Gooden blocked Belhaven punter Justin Miller’s kick, and defensive back Vernon Daniels picked the ball up and ran it in for the touchdown to give the Hornets a 27-6 lead.

“I told coach I was going to get one,” said Gooden. “I just got back there and put my hands up.”

But as they did against Livingstone last week, the Hornets’ first-half momentum dissipated before the second half could begin. The Hornets were shut out on offense, and their defense broke more often than it bent.

After Hornet linebacker Martin Cadet picked up a Ricardo Bolton fumble, Concordia drove to the Belhaven 1-yard line. But a holding penalty backed the Hornets up, and Johnson threw an interception to Belhaven defensive back Jonathan Reed.

The Blazers took advantage of the opportunity, and Bolton capped a 10-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 27-12.

The Blazers maintained their newfound momentum when Concordia receiver Morris Benton fumbled the kickoff, and Belhaven defensive end Eric Ortiz recovered at the Hornet 29.

But the Blazers didn’t capitalize on the opportunity. On fourth-and-goal from the Hornet 11, Carcich lobbed a pass up for receiver Barry Johnson in the left corner of the end zone. Defensive back Brandon Skanes tipped it, forcing Johnson to step out of bounds before pulling the ball in, and the Blazers turned the ball over on downs.

But Belhaven did not go away easily. The Blazers stopped Concordia on a fourth-and-2 at their own 16, then drove back down the field to close the gap to 27-19. Bolton capped off the 16-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Skanes and his staff decided to play the backups for the rest of the second half to let the starters rest up for a short week of preparation leading up to their game with the University of Tennessee-Martin on Thursday.

The decision proved costly. Backup quarterback Justin Brown bobbled a snap, and defensive back Johnson Javian picked the ball up at the Blazers 38.

The comeback ended on the very next play. Concordia defensive back Cortez Stubbs picked off Carcich at the Concordia 28, and the Hornets ran out the clock.