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Concordia returns to familiarity

Saturday’s South Alabama Heritage Classic between South Eastern Atlantic Conference members Concordia College and Edward Waters pits two teams trying to fight back from difficult losses.

The Tigers fell at Johnson Smith in a 37-31 overtime loss, dropping to 0-2 in the process. The Hornets went on the road to FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) opponent UT-Martin and picked up the first blemish on their record in an 87-21 loss.

“We had poor execution and a short week of preparation,” said Concordia coach Shepherd Skanes. “(UT-Martin) was more up for that game and better prepared.”

Skanes says his players have put the game behind them — from a preparation and game play standpoint — but will use the loss as a motivational tool.

“We’re not letting them forget last week,” said Skanes. “We don’t want last week to happen again.”

On paper, last week’s lopsided score will not be a repeat. The Hornets (3-1) started out with wins over NAIA teams Bethel and Belhaven and NCAA Division II Livingstone sandwiched between.

Edward Waters presents a return to the level of competition the Hornets have had success against.

Motivation won’t be a problem, either, as the Tigers have won the last two meetings.

The X-factor will be Concordia’s ability to play well for the entire game. The Hornets were plagued in their first three games with strong starts followed by lackluster finishes.

“We don’t know which team’s going to show up — the first-half or second-half team,” said Skanes. “We need to play mistake-free football.”

Another key will be the play of Concordia’s three leading offensive players — quarterback Ken Johnson, running back A.J. Ward and wide receiver John Halman.

Johnson has thrown for 673 yards and six touchdowns on 29-of-34 passing. Ward has rushed for 559 yards and two touchdowns on 63 carries — an average of 8.8 yards per touch. Halman has 11 receptions for 343 yards and five touchdowns.

The Hornets enter the game with one known edge.

The contest will be played in Dothan, technically making it the Hornets’ second home game of the year.