Wheeling University Tops West Liberty on Gridiron, 42-19
WEST LIBERTY — The old saying goes, “Defense wins championships.”
And the Wheeling University football team was certainly playing at a championship caliber against West Liberty Saturday night.
The Cardinals forced seven turnovers including six interceptions in a 42-19 victory against the Hilltoppers at West Family Stadium on the campus of West Liberty University.
“We played really well from the middle of that second quarter on,” Wheeling coach Zac Bruney said. “Our defense played outstanding in keeping our offense in the game because we couldn’t get out of our own way on offense. They (West Liberty) did a good job, their defensive players did a great job of game planning.”
Wheeling intercepted four Jack Allison passes in the first half, but West Liberty only gave up scores twice.
The Cardinals first got on the scoreboard after their second interception. Jalen Lea completed a pass to Ryan Lafollette and the receiver took it 80 yards to the house.
After another Allison interception with under a minute to play in the first half, the Cardinals again responded.
Lea found Jaquaun Davidson in the end zone for a 21-yard connection for the score. Matt Greenwood’s extra point put the score at 14-10 with 13 seconds left in the first half. The Cardinals did not relinquish the lead.
“We’re happy. We played well on defense the entire game,” Bruney said. “From the middle of the second quarter and well into the second half, our offense made big plays. The big plays kept us afloat in the first half and then sustaining drives and taking care of the football helped us in the second half.”
West Liberty cut its deficit to one after an Owen Rozanc 37-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half.
Wheeling’s offense then started to click as LaFollette scored his second touchdown of the game, this time on a 48-yard reception.
He finished with three receptions for 144 yards and two TDs.
The Hilltoppers punted on their next possession, but their defense recovered a fumble.
West Liberty’s offense took advantage. Quincy Wimbish’s 13-yard rushing score made it 21-19 with 4:16 remaining in the third.
The Cardinals would not allow a West Liberty comeback as they scored on their next two offensive possessions. Lea completed a pass to Tristen Ballard and he took it 16 yards for a score. On the Cardinals’ next possession, Eli Young’s 5-yard rush made it 35-19.
On the Hilltoppers ensuing possession, the Cardinals put the final touches on the scoreboard as they recovered a fumble in the end zone as the score read 42-19.
“A wise coach once told me, ‘When you’re looking for consistency, that means you’ve done it before or you can do it’,” West Liberty coach Roger Waialae said. “That’s the one thing we’re looking for, and especially on the offensive side of the ball is just some consistency from week to week. And we haven’t had it.
“This is a game of mistakes and we made way more mistakes than they did. They were able to capitalize on them.”
Lea finished with 216 passing yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 80.
Dalton Hoover paced the Cardinals’ defense with 10 total tackles.
For the Hilltoppers, Wimbish had two touchdowns and 91 rushing yards. Allison threw for 109 yards and five interceptions.
On defense, Clay McDonald had 11 total tackles.
“I’m really happy for our team and our university,” Bruney said. “I’m happy for our program because there’s a lot of people that have invested a lot of time, effort and energy behind the scenes that you don’t really see. I’m really thankful for them.”