By Josh Smith, Contributing Writer
After a disappointing loss last week on Homecoming, the Hilltoppers are hoping to break their losing streak this weekend against West Virginia State University.
On Saturday, Oct. 21, the West Liberty football team (2-5, 2-5 MEC) will travel to Institute, W.Va. to take on the Yellow Jackets of West Virginia State University (4-3, 3-2 MEC).
After winning two of their first three games, the Toppers have lost four in a row, with the most recent loss being last weekend on one of WLU’s biggest days of the year. The Toppers, however, will try to save their season with wins against their final four opponents who have a combined record of 15-13, but starting this weekend against West Virginia State.
Last season, the Toppers lost to the Yellow Jackets 30-37 in their last game of the season, but they have had recent success against them otherwise, winning seven of the last nine matchups. Coach Roger Waialae and his Toppers may look to be headed in a downward spiral, but do not count them out just yet.
One of the aspects that have plagued the Toppers is finding an offensive identity, starting at the quarterback position. Through the first five games, junior quarterback Brenton Colabella ran the gun for the Topper offense, but a three-interception game against Virginia Wise and other struggling offensive performances forced coach Waialae to look at other options.
The Toppers have sported a three-quarterback system, playing Colabella, junior Lukas O’Connor and senior Jake Kalama in the last two games, and they still have not been able to find an appropriate rhythm, as the offense has scored above 20 points in only one game this season. If the Toppers want any chance to turn this season around, the quarterback position needs to be figured out.
Senior running back Jeremiah Ortiz has been asked to lead the offense on the ground, as he is the only running back to get significant touches. Through seven games, he has rushed for 578 yards with the next running back, Braxton Gamble, at 100 yards. To add insult to injury, there has not been one rushing touchdown scored all season. With a combination of a struggling quarterback identity and the inability to put points on the board on the ground, the Toppers’ offense certainly has things to improve on.
Defensively, the Toppers have played to their strengths. Junior linebacker Clifford Clark continues to lead the team in tackles with 58, but sophomore defensive back Logan Deri inches closer and closer to Clark’s tackle lead every game with 48. The Toppers have been able to force five interceptions and three fumbles, but the offense has struggled to convert many of those opportunities to points.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Be sure to watch the game online at hilltoppersports.com and follow the Trumpet Online for a game recap.
Photo credit: Savanna Sieger