It Starts Up Front For West Liberty Football
WEST LIBERTY — It doesn’t matter when football returns for West Liberty, it’s the simple fact that it does return.
The Hilltoppers kickoff the spring football season on Saturday at Notre Dame and they are doing everything possible to make sure there are no setbacks.
“One thing you can control is keeping your bubble small,” WLU coach Roger Waialae said. “Don’t hang out with anybody when you leave here and I think our players have bought in.
“One thing, too, about playing in the spring is the unpredictability, especially the places we are going. I think the weather is going to have an effect on everything.
“Normally we don’t play in very bad weather but you don’t know what it’s going to be like in Cleveland on March 13. It could be snowing, sunny or raining so that’s another reason we have been preaching ‘you can’t worry about things out of your control.'”
On the field, it all starts up front for the Hilltoppers, who return all five offensive linemen.
Francisco Pedroza will handle the load at left tackle, while Wyatt Gardner brings back experience at center.
Quinton Williams and Tyler Ely look to provide strength and the guard spots and Austyn Todd is vying for the starting right tackle spot, along with Ryan Creech.
“That’s where everything starts is up front,” Waialae said. “You have to be able to block people.
“We have five guys up front who have experience and we have new guys competing with those guys. At right tackle, Ryan Creech played sporadically as a freshman and he is battling Austyn Todd for the starting spot.”
The experienced line will once again be blocking for transfer from West Virginia University, Jack Allison.
Allison played in 10 games in two seasons with the Mountaineers, completing 42 of his 71 passes for 496 yards and two scores. He also earned the 2017 Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
“Jack Allison has won the job over Jamie Diven but I’m not afraid to play both of them,” Waialae said. “Jordan Wood has also made big improvements.”
“Allison can make every throw. He doesn’t have a weakness throwing the football. One thing that has surprised me is his ability to take off and run with the football.
“He’s legitimately 6-foot-6. A lot of times with true pocket passers, they’re not very mobile and he’s very mobile for his size and for the type of passer he is
“So, we just really look for him to control the game with his knowledge and to get us out of bad plays and to get us into good plays. But, it’s up to the guys in front to protect him and the guys to get open. I think if they can do that, he’ll be successful but the weight of the world can’t be on the quarterback.”
Senior trio Quincy Wimbish, D.J. Frisby and Savion Johnson, along with transfer from Charleston Tyler Moler will make up the running game, while Nate Phillips leads the receiving corps.
“Nate Phillips is our only true starter that we return at receiver and he’ll start at the inside slot,” Waialae said. “Devon Harris from St. Clairsville will get time, too.
“Kyle Ritz from Magnolia will start at tight end and Jesse Collins, Nate McCutcheon and Marquis Johnson will rotate in.”
On defense, the Toppers have experience and depth on the line.
Cody Enrietti will be a four-year starter for Coach Waialae, while David Gilcreast and Kenyon Felder will start for the second and third straight year, respectively.
Also seeing time on the line will be Division I transfer Brodrick Watson, along with Brendan Nichols, Lupeni Fonua, Damion Brown, John Brown, Austin Mayfield and Edwin Lenares.
Clay McDonald will be a three-year starter at linebacker and he’ll be joined by Donte Davenport, a transfer from Slippery Rock, who is filling in for Maceo Christmas, who is injured.
The Hilltoppers don’t have much experience at defensive back so Waialae will get to see what many young players have to offer.
Shyoun Petteway from Steubenville will lead that young core, along with J’aire Pritchett, Jason Mitchell, Widly Francois, Koty Hudson, Jamaal Petteway and Dajuan Jones.
Owen Rozanc will handle kicking duties after earning all-conference in 2018.