By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
On a beautiful November night at West Family Stadium, the Hilltoppers couldn’t stop the high powered Eastern New Mexico offense. The Toppers took home the 45-24 loss, in their final home game of the year.
Eastern New Mexico got on the scoreboard in a hurry after a 54-yard touchdown pass just 97 seconds into the game. Quarterback Wyatt Strand found wide open receiver Russell Montoya to get on the board, and after the extra point attempt from Bailey Hale, the Hilltoppers found themselves in a 0-7 hole.
After a few costly Greyhound penalties, the Hilltoppers found themselves on the 1-yard line, but they failed to get into the end zone. They were forced to settle for a short field goal to make cut the lead to 3-7 with eight minutes left in the first quarter.
After a muffed punt deep in Eastern New Mexico territory, the Hilltoppers took over with great field position. On the first play, O’Connor found wide receiver Osman Kargbo for a 41-yard touchdown reception and after the Christian Morris extra point attempt, the Hilltoppers took the 10-7 lead with one minute remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Greyhounds fumbled on their own 25-yard line and West Liberty recovered. Unfortunately, the Hilltoppers were unable to put any points on the board after the turnover.
The second quarter started with a long Greyhound drive, that took them into the end zone, on a 17-yard touchdown run by Johnny Smith. The extra point attempt was successful by Hale, which put Eastern New Mexico up 14-10 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half.
On Eastern New Mexico’s next drive, a tipped pass got intercepted by safety Logan Deri and returned into Greyhound territory. On third down, O’Connor was hit in the backfield and fumbled the ball and it was recovered by defensive linemen Craig Spratt. They immediately drove down the field and a 1-yard quarterback run put the Greyhounds into the end zone, extending their lead to 21-10 with four and a half minutes left in the first half.
The Hilltoppers got the ball two more times before the end of the half, but they were unable to make anything out of it.
The Hilltoppers received the second half kickoff, but they weren’t able to get anything going on offense, and were forced to punt it away. On the second play of the Greyhounds drive, Smith scored on a 55-yard touchdown run to go on top 28-10.
On the next Eastern New Mexico drive, the Hilltoppers caught a break on a long touchdown run that got brought back due to a holding penalty and the defense was able to force the Greyhounds to attempt a long field goal. Hale split the uprights from 46-yards out to make it a 31-10 ballgame. On the ensuing drive, O’Connor found a wide open Ridge Durbin for a 25-yard touchdown reception to make it a 31-17 game with four minutes left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter started with an incredible 39-yard touchdown run by Strand to give Eastern New Mexico a 38-17 lead. A great catch and run by wide receiver Theodore Mayo, put the Hilltoppers deep into the red zone. A few plays later, running back Savion Johnson ran for a 3-yard touchdown to make it a 38-24 ball game with seven minutes left in the game.
The Greyhounds took a lot of time off of the clock while driving down the field, and eventually running it into the end zone on a 18-yard touchdown run from Smith’s third touchdown run of the game. After the point after attempt, Eastern New Mexico led 45-24 with two minutes left in the game. The Hilltoppers offense got the ball one more time but they were unable to do anything.
The Hilltoppers fell in their final home game of the year by a score of 45-24 to Eastern New Mexico. Their season finale will be next Thursday night, when they travel to Fairmont, W.Va. to take on Fairmont State University for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Be sure to grab next week’s Trumpet for a game preview.
Photo credit: Megan Sayre