North Canton, Ohio – Thursday night’s season opener between West Liberty and Walsh was a tale of two halves as the Cavaliers held on to defeat the Hilltoppers 24-21 at Larry Staudt Field. WU was able to race out to a 24-0 lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, however WLU was able to respond with 21 unanswered points to get within one possession in the closing minutes of the game.
Final Score: Walsh 24, West Liberty 21
Team Records: Walsh 1-0, West Liberty 0-1
HOW IT HAPPENED
· Walsh grabbed the momentum immediately in the Thursday night season opener, returning the opening kick-off 70 yards to the West Liberty 20-yard line. The Cavaliers completed the opening drive with a 3 yard rush by Cameron Macon and the following PAT by Trent Doerfler put WU up 7-0.
· Following a three and out on the Hilltoppers opening drive, Walsh used a 65 yard touchdown run from Dom Jennings to extend their lead to 14-0 after the PAT.
· Back-to-back completions by Rudy Garcia to Rashawn Harvey for 14 and 25 yards helped the WLU offense come to life on the second drive of the game, however the drive would stall at the Walsh 10-yard line and resulted in a missed 25 yard field goal attempt by Tyler Waddell.
· West Liberty’s offense moved the ball 57 yards again the next possession, however a missed 40 yard field goal attempt by Justin Kaplan kept the game at 14-0 in favor of Walsh.
· With 38 seconds remaining in the first half the Cavaliers pushed their lead to 17-0 with a 40 yard field goal by Doerfler, completing a 15 play, 60 yard drive.
· The Hilltoppers received the second half kick-off, however three plays into the possession a pass by Garcia was intercepted by Walsh’s Delshawn Petrosky and returned for a touchdown to make the score 24-0 in favor of the Cavaliers.
· Following a WU missed field goal, WLU started at their own 20-yard line and proceeded to march the ball 80 yards down the field in 11 plays for their first scoring drive of the season. Garcia found an open Chris Charles down the left side of the field for a 35 yard touchdown pass and the ensuing Tyler Waddell PAT cut the deficit to 24-7.
· The momentum continued to shift towards the Hilltoppers in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter as Garcia completed his second touchdown pass of the game, finding Rashawn Harvey for an eight yard touchdown pass. The failed PAT attempt by Waddell would keep the score at 24-13.
· The West Liberty defense continued to step up in the final period of play, forcing the Walsh offense three and out in three consecutive drives to set up the WLU offense to make one final push.
· Harvey hauled in his second touchdown reception of the game from Garcia, bringing the Hilltoppers within one possession with 1:19 remaining in the contest. Charles caught the pass from Garcia to complete the two point conversion and cut the score to 24-21.
· Garcia’s 370 passing yards in the contest marked his second 300+ yard passing game and set a new career high. Harvey also set a new career high with 168 receiving yards in his third career 100 yard game, while also notching his first multi-touchdown game.
· Thursday night’s game also marked the first game with multiple receivers reaching the 100 yard receiving mark since an October 16, 2021 game against Fairmont State.
· Trent Crawford recorded his second career double digit tackle game, leading the Hilltopper defense with ten tackles.
· West Liberty held the advantage in first downs 22-13, total yards 404-281, passing yards 370-90 and time of possession with over 32 minutes of possession (32:32).
WEST LIBERTY STATISTICAL LEADERS
Rudy Garcia: 35-of-59 passing, 370 passing yards, 3 touchdown passes
Rashawn Harvey: 14 receptions, 168 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Chris Charles: 5 receptions, 100 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Trent Crawford: 10 tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, 1 pass break-up
West Liberty opens their home schedule and Mountain East Conference play by welcoming Fairmont State to the hilltop next week. The Hilltoppers and Falcons are slated for a 7 P.M. kick-off under the lights of West Family Stadium on Thursday night.