WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University football team put on quite a show here Thursday night as big plays took center stage in a highly-entertaining Black and Gold Game under the lights at West Family Stadium.
Although several key veterans spent most of their time on the sidelines as a precautionary measure, there was no lack of excitement on the field as the Gold offense rolled to a 74-46 victory over the Black defense in a modified scoring system which awarded points for big plays, first downs, defensive stops, turnovers, sacks and tackles for loss along with the traditional scoring plays.
“Nobody pays attention to the score in spring games,” veteran head coach Roger Waialae said. “What matters is giving the guys the opportunity to step up and make plays in a live game environment and we had a lot of guys take advantage of that opportunity on both sides of the ball. Tonight was a good ending to a very good spring.”
While no official stats were kept in a controlled scrimmage that numbered just under 100 snaps, the WLU offense scored four TDs and had 11 plays of 20 or more yards as multiple players shared the spotlight.
Jamie Diven, the returning starter at quarterback, delivered the longest play of the night when he hit streaking WR Jerome Harris in stride between the hashes for a 70-yard touchdown bomb. The speedy Harris also caught a 25-yard pass from Alex Dunlevy and easily blew past the 100-yard receiving mark for the game.
Sophomore QB Parker Sherry also had a long TD pass, going over the top to rangy WR Craig Bober on a 40-yard scoring strike. Bober, a high school teammate of Harris at St. Clairsville High School, also pulled in a 39-yard pass from Sherry during a later drive and went over 100 receiving yards.
Dunlevy, a former all-stater from nearby Wheeling Park who transferred to WLU this year, showed a nice touch on several throws and capped his night with a scrambling 5-yard TD pass to tight end Nate McCutcheon after being flushed out of the pocket.
Redshirt freshman QB Beau Heller, another former all-stater from Wheeling Park, made a number of outstanding throws – highlighted by a 48-yard heave to senior WR Wisdom Jenkins, who made a tumbling circus catch at the 5 to set up a 5-yard touchdown burst by transfer TB Anthony Barmer.
Barmer, making his WLU debut after transferring in from Compton (Calif.) JC, was one of several running backs making a positive impression on the evening. Redshirt freshman Jayvon Wilson had the longest run from scrimmage, bouncing an off-tackle play outside and scooting 40 yards down the right sideline before being tumbled out of bounds.
Joining Barmer and Wilson with positive contributions from the running back spot were second-year freshman Dylan Asbury and converted defensive back Widly Francois.
As Coach Waialae noted, there were plenty of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, as well.
Jordan Wood, continuing his transition from quarterback to defensive back, came up big on multiple occasions. He short-circuited one offensive march with an interception and return across midfield and made a touchdown-saving tackle to force Wilson out of bounds on his long run.
Zach Dixon, moving up from defensive back to linebacker, was a thorn in the offense’s side all night. Dixon forced and recovered one fumble while posting several tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Delano Marcellus also had multiple tackles for loss as did freshman defensive lineman Jovani Mitchell.
Freshman defensive back Marshall Whipkey stopped another offensive march with an interception on a Diven throw that was tipped by fellow DB TraVon Jeffrey. All-MEC defensive back Trent Crawford produced the final turnover of the night, winning the struggle for a fumble into the end zone to send the offense away empty-handed one last time.
The Hilltoppers will open the season with a Sept. 1 road game at Clarion (Pa.). West Liberty’s complete 2022 grid slate will be released early next week.