The West Liberty University football team wrapped up spring practice Thursday night with a strong showing in the annual Black and Gold controlled scrimmage.
The Black team (offense) put on a late rush to edge the Gold (defense) by a 42-36 count in a modified scoring system that awarded points for turnovers, tackles-for-loss, big gains, first downs and defensive stops along with the traditional scoring plays of touchdowns, field goals, PATs and safeties.
“Tonight was more of what we’ve seen all spring and exactly what we’re looking for as a coaching staff,” veteran head coach Roger Waialae said. “We had multiple guys stepping up to make plays on both sides of the ball. It’s all about competition. You don’t want to see your offense or your defense dominating and that wasn’t the case. We really haven’t seen that all spring and we didn’t see it tonight.”
The defense had the upper hand for much of the early going – helped by the fact that a couple of starting offensive linemen weren’t available at the start of the scrimmage due to a night class. Returning starter DE Zach Barnes maintained a steady presence in the offensive backfield early on with three QB sacks while speedy LB Cliff Clark finished with a game-high 6 tackles, a tackle-for-loss and a pass breakup.
Transfer DE Lance Heasley had two sacks with fellow defensive linemen Maika Koko and Mohammed Sankoh picking up one each along with defensive back Cordell Felder.
Once the offense settled in, returning All-MEC quarterback Dakota Conwell scrambled into the end zone from 11 yards out for one touchdown and later had a 30-yard TD throw to returning WR Anton McCallum called back on a holding penalty.
Sophomore QB Brenton Colabella had a 32-yard connection with returning WR Max Kapron to set up a late 6-yard TD run by TB Devone Penick while redshirt freshman QB Cody Long highlighted his night with a 35-yard scramble to put the Black team in scoring position.
“All three quarterbacks showed the ability to make plays through the air and with their feet,” Waialae said. “I thought (returning starter) Dakota Conwell was our most improved player last spring and he might be our most improved guy again this year but (Brenton) Colabella and (Cody) Long have made strides, as well. It’s a big plus when you can pull the ball down and turn a negative play into a positive but it’s all part of the process.”
The Hilltoppers combined for just under 300 yards through the air. Conwell completed 11-of-22 for 119 yards while Colabella was 9-of-13 for 122 yards. The offense ran the ball 33 times for 148 yards and two scores. Ty Peterson had 30 yards on 3 carries while Braxton Gamble finished with 30 yards on 5 attempts. Also impressing from the tailback spot were Penick, Jeremiah Ortiz, Devan Wade and Tyriq Dorsett.
McCallum finished with 7 catches for 83 yards to lead the receiving corps and also threw a 45-yard pass to fellow WR Gavin Morton on an option play. Trevor Hardesty had 3 catches for 23 yards, Osman Kargbo had 33 yards on two receptions and Dorsett picked up 27 yards out of the backfield on a pair of catches. Returning H-Back Ian Kelly also had two catches for 18 yards.
Returning PK Christian Morris was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts, including a long of 41 yards, while easily converting both PATs.
West Liberty is scheduled to kick off the 2016 football season on Sept. 3 when the Hilltoppers head south for a noon game at Concord.