West Liberty Hosts U.Va.-Wise on Homecoming

WEST LIBERTY — Two of the Mountain East Conference’s hottest teams will be riding 3-game win streaks into West Family Stadium on Saturday when West Liberty hosts UVa-Wise.

Kickoff for WLU’s annual Homecoming Game is set for noon.

Coach Roger Waialae’s Hilltoppers (3-3, 3-2) are coming off an impressive 40-23 road romp at Charleston last Saturday while the Cavaliers (4-2, 3-2), in their first season under coach Dane Damron, mounted a fourth quarter rally to stun Concord, 30-19, in a Thursday night home game.

Bouncing back from a frustrating 0-3 start, West Liberty finds itself shooting for its first four-game winning streak since the 2009 NCAA Division II playoff squad. The Hilltoppers’ win against Charleston last week may have been their most impressive of the season, reeling off 24 unanswered points to overcome an early 16-6 deficit while controlling the clock with a series of time-consuming drives.

“That was the first game all year where we were able to play the same five offensive linemen for the entire game,” Waialae said. “I thought they played well together as a unit and our running backs were pretty consistent. (Ty) Peterson got hot late (with two long touchdown runs and another one called back by penalty) but it could be somebody completely different stepping up this week.”

Quarterback Dakota Conwell had his first 300-yard passing game of the season with WR Dan Monteroso catching 9 balls for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns while fellow senior receiver Anton McCallum had four grabs for 97 yards — including a 70-yard bomb — before being knocked out of the game on a personal foul hit that drew a targeting penalty and ejection.

“It was good to see Dakota and Dan finding a rhythm and seeing things together,” Waialae said. “There were a couple of times when Dan broke off his route and Dakota was on the same page which led to some big plays. We may not have Anton this week but we’re getting some other guys back from injury — wide receivers Ian Kelly, Max Kapron, Trevor Hardesty, Shane Phillips and offensive lineman Mike Berardi — so our 2-deep will be almost back to full strength.”

Waialae had high praise for his defensive unit, as well.

“We knew going in that Charleston was going to try to run the ball but our defensive line has really been carrying us all year and they had another great game,” Waialae said. “I also thought our three linebackers — Cliff Clark, Kevin Melder and Zach Connor — played well. Miles Young made some really big plays on special teams, which doesn’t always get noticed, and Josh Ojo has been making plays there, as well.”

The Cavaliers present a different challenge this week as the Virginia squad is off to its best start since 2008. UVa-Wise has held its last three opponents below 100 rushing yards and is coming off an impressive performance against Concord in which they forced four turnovers, came up with six quarterback sacks and had a staggering 14 tackles-for-loss.

“They’ve really bought into the systems with the new coaching staff and they’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Waialae said. “They’re flying around on defense, making plays and forcing turnovers. Their offense is putting a lot of points on the board. They’re aggressive on special teams with a good kicker and a good return game. They’ve come from behind and won some close games. You can tell just by watching on film that their kids are fully engaged and sold on what they’re doing on offense, defense and special teams. That’s a real credit to their coaching staff.”

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