By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
West Liberty traveled to Wise, Va. to take on the UVA-Wise Cavaliers, and in a hard fought battle, the Hilltoppers fell just short by a score of 31-19. West Liberty falls to 2-2 on the year and the Cavaliers move up in the Mountain East Conference standings with a 3-1 record.
Both teams entered the weekend with 2-1 records. The first quarter went back and forth, with each team getting multiple possessions but both defenses stepping up big to stop any points from getting on the board. Junior quarterback Brenton Colabella came out of the gates with the game plan of throwing down the field, but he was unable to connect with any of his receivers to get anything going on offense.
As the second quarter started, the Cavaliers got their offense going, driving all the way down the field to the goal line, but a huge defensive stand by the Hilltoppers’ defense held them to just a field goal by Trevor Owens, to put UVA-Wise up 3-0 with just over ten minutes left in the first half. After both teams punted the ball away on the ensuing drives, the Hilltoppers were pinned deep in their own territory and after one first down, they were forced to give it back to the Cavaliers.
On the punt attempt, a UVA-Wise defensemen got his hand on the ball and tipped it, which caused a very short punt giving the Cavaliers very good field possession. After a few big plays, the Hilltoppers found themselves in a 10-0 hole after a Von Purvis 5-yard touchdown run and an Owens extra point attempt make, with just over three minutes remaining in the first half. West Liberty was unable to get anything going on their next drive before halftime.
The Hilltoppers came out firing on all cylinders on their first drive of the second half, with a great 45-yard run by Jeremiah Ortiz to get into the red zone. On the very next play, Colabella found Ian Kelly for a 20-yard touchdown reception to put the Hilltoppers on the board. After a missed extra point field goal attempt by Christian Morris, UVA-Wise lead 10-6 with just under 13 minutes left in the third quarter.
A few drives later, UVA-Wise drove the short field and found themselves in the end zone after a short rushing touchdown by Jarome Johnson to go up 17-6, with the extra point attempt splitting the uprights. After an interception, the Cavaliers took over around midfield and then promptly drove down the field and scored a touchdown after beautiful throw found a wide open Cedrick Watson in the end zone, to go up 24-6 late in the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers scored early in the fourth quarter, when Colabella found a wide open Osman Kargbo on a slant route for an 8-yard touchdown. The Hilltoppers attempted the two-point conversion, but were unable to find the end zone on back-to-back plays, so UVA-Wise held the 24-12 lead.
Then, a fumble deep in Cavalier territory gave West Liberty the ball back, with five and half minutes left in the game. The Hilltoppers wasted no time finding the end zone, as Colabella found Braxton Gamble coming out of the backfield for a 10-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was good, and the Hilltoppers found themselves down by just five points with just under four minutes left in the game.
However, UVA-Wise drove down the field and scored a touchdown to put the game out of reach for the Hilltoppers, as the Cavaliers go home victorious on homecoming by a score of 31-19.
West Liberty will be back in action on Thursday as they will return to West Family Stadium where they will take on Notre Dame (Ohio). Be sure to grab this week’s issue of the Trumpet for a game preview and a player profile. The game will be televised on WLU-TV14 and aired on the radio on 91.5 WGLZ.
Photo credit: Megan Sayre