West Liberty Drops Heartbreaker at Fairmont State - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

West Liberty Drops Heartbreaker at Fairmont State

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The West Liberty University football team rallied from a 19-0 deficit here Saturday afternoon but couldn't hang on as Fairmont State handed the Hilltoppers a 25-20 loss in a battle of West Virginia Conference rivals at Duvall-Rosier Field.

An 83-yard touchdown pass from Falcon QB Bobby Vega to wide receiver C.J. Goodwin in the waning minutes of the third quarter erased a 20-19 West Liberty lead and the Hilltopper offense was unable to answer against an aroused Fairmont State (1-3, 1-1) defense.
West Liberty (2-2, 1-1) had been held to just 9 yards of total offense and no first downs in the second half before putting together a clutch drive in the final 2 minutes.
The Hilltoppers got the ball at their own 29 with just 2:35 remaining but two short completions to Darrell Stanley produced the first stick-mover and quarterback L.D. Crow then connected on 11-yard tosses to Marvin Murray and Brandon Schroeder to cross midfield.
A late hit penalty against Fairmont State gave WLU a first down at the Falcon 27 with just over a minute remaining but Crow was sacked back at the 34 on the ensuing snap.
With no timeouts, the Hilltoppers had to spike the ball to stop the clock. Crow's next two passes, delivered under heavy pressure, fell incomplete and the game was gone.
Fairmont State entered the game without its top three running backs due to injury. All-WVIAC defensive back Ryland Newman filled in at tailback for most of the game, as well, but the Falcons passed or tried to pass on nearly every snap.
The hosts benefited from excellent field position throughout the first half and took full advantage in jumping out to the 19-0 lead.
Fairmont opened the scoring with a 36-yard Johnny Dears tine field goal and tacked on two more points before the end of the first quarter when WLU's Isiah Moody was tackled in the end zone after a punt was downed inside the Hilltoppers' 1-yard-line.
Vega capped two short scoring drives at the start of the second quarter with touchdown passes of 13 yards to Chris St. Hilaire and 5 yards to Matt Wilmer, producing the 19-0 lead with 10:25 on the second quarter clock.
The Hilltopper defense turned the momentum around when Marco Ricchetti picked off a Vega pass deep in Fairmont territory and ran it back to the FSU 5 before being tumbled out of bounds. Crow muscled into the end zone from a yard out to cut the lead to 19-6.
Late in the half, West Liberty's defense forced Fairmont to punt out of its own end zone and the Hilltoppers took over on the Falcon 39.
Battling the clock as well as the FSU defense, West Liberty cashed in 4th-and-goal from the 2 when Moody took a pitch from Bo Whitney and dragged two Fairmont defenders into the end zone just 28 seconds before the halftime horn.
The Hilltopper defense picked up where it had left off in the second half when Andrew Faraimo stripped the ball out of a Falcon receiver's hands at the FSU 22. Fellow safety Jovontae Johnson scooped up the pigskin and darted down the right sideline into the end zone for a 20-19 West Liberty lead at 13:54 of the third quarter.
Both offenses struggled for the remainder of the quarter until the hosts caught lightning in a bottle with what proved to be the decisive play of the game.
Backed up to his own 17 after a West Liberty punt and FSU personal foul, Vega found Goodwin behind the Hilltopper secondary and the Falcon receiver won a footrace to the end zone to complete an 83-yard scoring play at 1:55 of the third quarter. The 2-point conversion failed but the Fairmont defense made the 25-20 margin stand up.
Vega completed 34 of a school-record 68 pass attempts for 386 yards and 3 TDs with 3 interceptions. St. Hilaire had 12 catches for 123 yards while Goodwin finished with 104 receiving yards on 3 grabs. The Falcons were held to 28 rushing yards on 25 attempts as the WLU defense sacked Vega 5 times for minus-41 yards.
West Liberty finished with just 10 first downs and 161 yards of total offense. Crow completed 21-of-43 passes for 145 yards with 2 interceptions while the Hilltopper ground game was held to 16 yards on 26 attempts. Stanley led the receiving corps with 6 catches for 45 yards.
The Hilltoppers return home to host Glenville State in a 1 p.m. game on Saturday.