WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University football team held Glenville State to a Mountain East Conference season-low 148 yards of total offense here Thursday night and ran away to a 43-20 victory before a happy home crowd at West Family Stadium.
It was a dominating defensive performance by Coach Roger Waialae’s Hilltoppers (2-2, 2-2), who snapped a brief two-game slide by holding the Pioneers (2-2, 1-2) to just 28 yards of total offense in the first half and not allowing an offensive touchdown all night.
“When I talked to the team after last week’s (27-24) loss at Frostburg State, it had nothing to do with x’s and o’s and everything to do with faith and trust,” Waialae said. “It was important for the players to keep faith in each other, believe in their coaches and in themselves and I’m incredibly proud of the way they responded.
“The consistency we played with in the first half tonight stemmed directly from that. You could see it in the way we practiced all week. I don’t think we’ve played at the level we played at in the first half on both sides of the ball for a long time.”
West Liberty took the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards on 9 plays for a touchdown with QB Zach Phillips covering the final 10 yards on an option keeper. Glenville returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown but the rest of the half was all Hilltoppers.
Owen Rozanc put WLU ahead to stay with a 25-yard field goal later in the quarter and a 15-yard touchdown run by TB Quincy Wimbish and a 20-yard scoring toss from Phillips to TE Thomas Cole sent the hosts into the locker room with a commanding 23-7 lead. The Hilltoppers had picked up 268 yards on 48 snaps while holding the Pioneers to just 17 plays and less than 30 yards of total offense.
“The first half tonight was the way our offense is supposed to run,” Waialae said. “We ran nearly 50 plays and Zach probably checked out of the original call on 20 of them from his pre-snap read. Our offense is predicated on the quarterback making the right decisions at the line, getting us into the right play and getting the ball to our playmakers. Zach was really good with that tonight.”
Some West Liberty miscues opened the door for Glenville to make things interesting when play resumed. A personal foul for a late hit set up a short Pioneer field goal on the opening possession of the third quarter and an interception return for a touchdown midway through the period made it a one-score game, 23-17.
The visitors weren’t finished. A 25-yard run off a fake punt by WR Austin Ratliff followed by a 26-yard screen pass to TB Mario Pender gave Glenville first-and-goal at the WLU 7 early in the fourth quarter.
Clutch quarterback sacks by LB Clay McDonald and DE Cody Enrietti forced the PIoneers to settle for a 39-yard field goal, keeping the Hilltoppers on top, 23-20, and taking some of the wind out of Glenville’s sails.
“We knew Glenville had caught some momentum,” said McDonald, who led the Black and Gold defense with 7 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss and a pair of sacks, “so we were looking to get a stop. Coach Monty (defensive coordinator Jeff Monteroso) gave us a great game plan and we executed it like we were supposed to.”
On the next possession, Phillips found WR Isaiah Robinson with a deep ball near midfield and the junior speedster weaved his way through a handful of would-be tacklers on an electrifying 71-yard pass and run to the Glenville 1. D.J. Frisby slammed into the end zone on the next play for a 30-20 WLU lead and the Black and Gold took control for good.
The West Liberty defense forced a 3-and-out on the next possession and DE Jack Davis blocked a Justin Watts punt, which was recovered by McDonald at the Glenville 35. That set up an 8-yard TD run by Wimbish. Lupeni Fonua concluded the scoring with a scoop-and-score 24-yard fumble return after a strip sack by blitzing DB Logan Deri.
“We came out tonight and took it right to them on both sides of the ball,” Waialae said. “They have some big-time playmakers at the skill position but I thought we won the battle up front and that’s where most football games are decided.”
Phillips completed 21-of-33 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown. Robinson led all receivers with 3 catches for 91 yards while senior WR Christian Rita added 5 catches for 59 yards as WLU racked up more than 400 yards of total offense while charting 6 quarterback sacks and a dozen tackles-for-loss on defense.
Glenville was held to 22 net rushing yards on 30 attempts while the two Pioneer QBs completed just 10-of-23 passes for 123 yards. Glenville was 0-for-13 on third down conversions and was held to minus-20 net yards on 10 total snaps in the fourth quarter.
The Hilltoppers return to action on Oct. 5 when they travel to Institute to take on West Virginia State in a 1 p.m. kickoff.