Hilltoppers Host Pioneers
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University football team returns to West Family Stadium on Saturday to host Glenville State in a Hall of Fame Day matchup. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
The WLU Hall of Fame will add eight new members during Saturday morning’s induction ceremony inside the ASRC. Those honorees – Heather Alcorn, Clay Beeler, Kevon Calhoun, Dave Cisar, Richard Foston, Doug Surra, Lynn Thompson and Kallen Weaver – will be honored on the field at halftime.
Coach Roger Waialae’s Hilltoppers (2-2, 2-1) look to keep climbing the MEC ladder after blasting West Virginia Wesleyan, 31-0, in Buckhannon last week. The Pioneers (1-2, 1-2) are hoping to get back on track after dropping a 27-10 home decision to Wheeling a week ago.
Last week’s shutout win at Wesleyan was the second goose-egg in the past three weeks for the stingy Black and Gold defensive unit, which hasn’t allowed a point on the road all season. It’s the first time West Liberty has had multiple shutouts in a season since the 1995 Hilltoppers kept three opponents off the scoreboard.
“Our team defense was phenomenal at Wesleyan,” Waialae said. “Everybody stayed in their lane, so to speak, and executed the game plan. Most of the time when you have a strong defensive game, there are one or two guys with really great stats. But on Saturday, it was really spread out with everybody just doing what they were supposed to do. That allows us to play to our strengths and we need to continue doing that.”
The WLU offense more than held up its end of the bargain, racking up 260 yards of total offense in the second half alone.
Senior QB Jack Allison completed 16-of-23 passes for 229 yards and a pair of TDs with no interceptions. Fellow senior WR Isaiah Robinson posted his second straight 100-yard receiving game with 3 catches for 118 yards – highlighted by touchdowns of 26 and 77 yards. Tailback Tyler Moler just missed his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 87 yards on 21 carries.
The Hilltopper defense also put points on the board in the waning minutes of the opening half when cornerback J’Aire Pritchett picked off a Bobcat pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown, doubling the WLU lead to 14-0 at intermission. It was one of two interceptions on the day for the WLU defense, which ranks among the Top 10 nationally in turnovers forced with six fumble recoveries and three picks.
“With every turnover, you’re effectively giving your opponent an extra possession,” Waialae said. “We didn’t turn the ball over on Saturday but we got two or three extra possessions. We have to take care of the football. In the games we’ve lost, we’ve turned it over but in the games we’ve won, we haven’t.”
The numbers bear that out. The Hilltoppers committed a total of eight turnovers in losses to Walsh (Ohio) and No. 6-ranked Notre Dame but didn’t have a fumble or interception in their wins against Alderson Broaddus and West Virginia Wesleyan.
Glenville presents an interesting matchup for WLU on Saturday as there’s a level of familiarity between the two programs that’s probably unmatched in the MEC.
Pioneer head coach Mike Kellar spent the 2018 season as Waialae’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator while Glenville State defensive line coach Brian Hill spent the last three years as the Hilltoppers’ defensive line coach. Kellar and Hill were college teammates at Glenville.
Waialae doesn’t think that familiarity gives either team an advantage.
“We share a lot of the same philosophies,” Waialae said. “If you look at the two teams on tape, there are a lot of similarities. They pretty much know what we’re going to try to do and we pretty much know what they’re going to try to do. It’s all about who does it better on Saturday.”