UC Dims West Liberty’s Night

WEST LIBERTY – West Liberty coach Roger Waialae must think he’s in the twilight zone.

As the lights shined bright at Russek Field for the first time in its history, Waialae still was left waiting for the light bulb to come on for his offense as the Hilltoppers failed to get in the end zone, resulting in a 26-9 loss to the University of Charleston.

”You have to convert opportunities into touchdowns,” he said. ”Our defense gave us a couple scoring opportunities, but we didn’t take care of it. Our drives sputtered.

”It’s getting old. It’s the same old story every week.”

The defense must be thinking the same thing.

After Charleston marched down the field into the end zone on its opening drive, the Hilltoppers defense came through twice as it recovered a fumble after a 75-yard punt by Griffin Yocum at the Golden Eagles 11 and then again in the second when D’Andre Muhammad came up with a one-handed interception.

Both times West Liberty had to settle for field goals.

That’s been the case so many times this season, in fact, that Bryan Arbes finished the night by setting the school’s single-season record for most field goals.

”If we could finish those drives, he wouldn’t have those opportunities, but he’s taken care of the opportunities he’s had,” Waialae said. ”It’s a good weapon when you’re scoring touchdowns and adding field goals here and there, but when you’re living off field goals, you’re going to have to shut some people out to win. You’d rather see him kick more extra points than field goals.”

Despite the lack of offense by West Liberty – 99 yards in the first half – it trailed by one, 7-6, at that point.

That’s when Charleston coach Pat Kirkland told his team he wanted to see improvements.

”At halftime, we challenged our offense to move the football and get some points out of it and they responded,” he said. ”The first drive of the second half I was really encouraged by the way they came out. It wasn’t that we called different plays, they just stepped up and challenged themselves and did a nice job.”

It’s true.

On a second-and-10 from his 33, Charleston running back Leighton Settle broke lose for a 50-yard run, setting up quarterback John Knox for a 10-yard touchdown scramble that put the Golden Eagles ahead 13-6.

Charleston then started its next three possessions in Hilltoppers territory, but came away with only six points.

”West Liberty has not a good, but a great defense,” Kirkland said. ”Those guys played hard. They’re disciplined and played responsibility football.”

Waialae echoed his counterparts’ praise.

”I thought other than two series they played well,” he said. ”When you give up the ball on the other side of the 50 and you’re holding them to three points, that’s pretty good.”

Another Arbes field goal, this one from 48 yards, put the Hilltoppers back in the game at 19-9, but West Liberty couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-1, which gave Charleston the ball at the Toppers 31. Five plays later, the Golden Eagles were in the end zone.

”There’s just a fine margin between winning and losing games,” Waialae said. ”Bottom line is they made the plays in the third quarter. I thought our offense put our defense in terrible positions. Those little things have a big impact on the game, especially when you’re trying to play field position.”

West Liberty finished the game with a total of 217 yards.