By Logan Arneson, Contributing Writer
Sports are a large part of the community up here on the hilltop, one of these being football. Attracting crowds of locals, students and staff, it brings everyone together for a social event and entertaining competition. The West Liberty football team is looking forward to a successful season, hoping to improve from last year’s record of four wins and seven losses.
They will take on Urbana University tonight at West Family Stadium to start their season. Last season when these two teams faced off at Urbana, the Hilltoppers were able to come away with a big 21-8 victory that ended their three game losing streak and was the start of a three game winning streak.
Heading into his thirteenth year as head coach, Roger Waialae is confident they will have a winning record. Speaking on terms of the 2016 season, Coach Waialae said, “Last year is obviously in the past, but we were in a lot of one score games, so we are looking how to finish and how to mature.”
Only losing some games by a few points comes down to small technical errors, such as missing an extra point or not capitalizing on scoring a touchdown when in the red zone. However, making field goals can be just enough to propel the Hilltoppers into the lead. Waialae said, “Kicker Christian has gotten better and more consistent. Missing field goals and extra points can determine the outcome of a game.”
Waialae also focused in on how the physical aspect of the sport is crucial to winning each game. Another important part of building a talented team is having depth at every position; this helps because when a player becomes injured or tired in a game Coach Waialae can send in a back-up player with confidence. A solid depth chart also makes practices more competitive, creating an environment where everyone is constantly improving.
On the offensive side, Waialae said, “We need great play from the quarterback and offensive line. We have to recruit the best possible athletes.” An offensive line can carry a team far with blocking and helping the running back get out of the back field and up towards the end zone. The quarterback is essential to the team not only with being successful but being a strong team leader, motivating everyone to strive for perfection.
As for the defense, Waialae emphasized that they are much improved in their secondary. Building a sturdy team on both sides of the ball is key to success. His main goal for this year is to “play one play at a time.”
Photo credit: Hilltoppersports.com