West Liberty Looks To Rebound After Loss

UC?visits West Family Stadium

File Photo by Alex Kozlowski
The West Liberty Hilltoppers look to bounce back after suffering a loss to West Virginia Wesleyan last week.

File Photo by Alex Kozlowski The West Liberty Hilltoppers look to bounce back after suffering a loss to West Virginia Wesleyan last week.

WEST LIBERTY — Coach Roger Waialae described it as feeling as though he was in the Twilight Zone. If it could go wrong for West Liberty’s football team last week at West Virginia Wesleyan, it most certainly did.

A blocked punt for a touchdown. A punt return for a touchdown. A fumble recovery for a touchdown. A sure interception slipping through a defensive back’s fingers. Add all this — and some more — up, and it equaled a 34-0 Hilltoppers loss.

”Like the last time we went down there, we didn’t have anyone to bail us out,” Waialae said. ”It was just one of those games and it’s nowhere indicative of the type of team we have.

”We played all right defensively after we got going.”

West Liberty (1-1 overall, 1-1 Mountain East Conference) hopes it gets going a lot quicker at 7 tonight when the University of Charleston (1-1, 1-1) comes calling to Russek Field inside West Family Stadium. Last week was the first time the Hilltoppers were shut out in 178 games, or 18 seasons.

”We’ve moved the ball periodically between the 20s but we couldn’t finish drives,” Waialae said. ”I was a young coach at West Liberty the last time we were shut out and we didn’t get past the 50-yard line against Fairmont in that game.”

Running back Jeremiah Ortiz is coming off a 109-yard performance, but Waialae said he would like to see the senior do a little more when the ball isn’t in his hands. Ortiz will be in the starting lineup, but former Wheeling Park all-stater Savion Johnson will enter the game during the second or third series.

”Charles Westbrook is still nursing foot injury,” Waialae said.

The list of injuries already incurred by the Hilltoppers this season grew substantially last week. Sophomore offensive lineman Dominique Hudson broke his leg and is out for the season. Starting left tackle Hunter Steel is out indefinitely with a concussion and tight end Chalmer Moffett looks to miss a week with a shoulder injury.

”But we should get (Chance) Rucker and (Corey) Ernest back this week,” Waialae said of his offensive line. ”And on defense we think we’ll have our strong safety, Lherri Fontilisse, back after missing last week.”

The Golden Eagles enter off a shutout of their own, having blanked Concord, 27-0, a week ago tonight. They debuted with a 51-28 loss to West Virginia State in a game Waialae said was affected by the elements.

”They’re a really, really good football team,” Waialae said. ”I think their quarterback (Mason Olszewski) is one of the top ones in the conference and he can run and throw.

”Their running game since (Coach) Pat (Kirkland) took over is one of the best in conference.”

The Hilltoppers found a way to shut down that vaunted run game last season, holding it to 114 yards in a 40-23 victory. However, Charleston has run for 200 or more in nine of the last 10 games against WLU.

Defensively, Waialae expects the Golden Eagles to be as aggressive as they have shown on film, even with offensive coordinator Paul Johnson serving as the head coach on an interim basis with Kirkland in the hospital dealing with an illness.

”They will have some added emotion,” Waialae said. ”We got their best last year and we were able to handle them. We’re going to get their best again and we’ve got to be ready.

”We have to make them one-dimensional and since I have been here, that means stopping the run first.”

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