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Concordia: Seniors want this one

After falling to Texas Southern 45-27 last week, Concordia (4-2) – whose NAIA membership status remains in a holding pattern – will again test the NCAA waters.

The Hornets play host to NCAA Division II West Alabama (2-3) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

“This is a big game,” said Concordia Coach Shepherd Skanes. “A win would be a program statement.”

The Hornets are 1-2 against NCAA teams this season with a win over NCAA Division II Livingstone and losses to Football Championship Subdivision opponents UT-Martin and Texas Southern.

The Tigers are coming off a 33-14 loss to No. 1 Valdosta State. Both own wins over Belhaven. Skanes sees West Alabama as an upscale NCAA Division II team that looks strong on film.

“On film, it doesn’t look like they lost anybody,” said Skanes. “I think we match up with West Alabama pretty good. I think we can go up there and compete.”

For Hornet seniors Ken Johnson, Ricardo Lee, Karlton Williams, Derek Wilson, Terrence Turner, Frank Goode, Jami Baraka, Dee Surls, and Sherman Black — all were in Concordia’s first recruiting class — this is their last shot to beat a team that has had Concordia’s number from day one.

The Tigers beat the Hornets 34-12 in Concordia’s inaugural football season and took the following two meeting 65-0 and 28-21.

“We didn’t lose to the team. We lost to the program,” said Skanes. “This is kind of game you don’t have to do any hurray, hurrah speeches. A good showing will show how far we have come as a program.”

Adding to the buzz surrounding the game is a number of unflattering comments West Alabama supporters have made regarding the eligibility of Concordia quarterback Ken Johnson.

Johnson began his career at West Alabama in 2001, but transferred to Alabama State after a semester. He was a part-time student at Alabama State from spring 2002 through spring 2003.

He was out of school from fall 2003 through fall 2004. He arrived at Concordia as a two-year non-participation student in spring 2005 before playing as a redshirt freshman for the Hornets that fall.

According to NCAA eligibility rules, football players have 10 semesters to exhaust their eligibility. Part-time semesters do not count towards eligibility. Part-time students are not allowed to participate in athletics.

Adding even more fuel to Saturday’s fire, West Alabama will hold an alumni reunion at the St. James Hotel prior to kickoff.

But that doesn’t bother Skanes.

“Alumni don’t play the game,” he said. “We want all of them to come in and spend their money in Selma.”