By Josh Smith, Contributing Writer
Tonight, the football team (3-6, 3-6 MEC) will host the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds (7-1, 6-1 LSC) at West Family Stadium. Losing five-straight games before last week’s win against Concord, the Toppers are hoping to salvage their season with wins in their final two games, but the Greyhounds are traveling nearly 1,500 miles to spoil that hope.
Located in Portales, N.M., ENMU is a public university that belongs to the Lone Star Conference. Located near the Texas border, the Greyhounds will be traveling 1,478 miles to reach the hilltop and are coming in red hot. Sporting a five-game win streak, the 21st nationally ranked Greyhounds have not lost since Sept. 16, where they were beaten by top-10 ranked Texas A&M Commerce.
This is the first matchup between the Greyhounds and the Toppers, and Head Coach Roger Waialae is hoping to continue their confidence from last week’s win into tonight.
In the games prior, the Toppers were struggling to find an offensive identity, primarily at the quarterback position. Waialae and his staff were cycling a three-quarterback system, but were unable to find any consistency. Last week, junior Lukas O’Connor took the majority of the snaps and did quite well, completing 11 of 19 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. The Toppers also put up 44 points, a game-high on the season. Look for the Toppers to rely on O’Connor heavily tonight.
Senior running back Jeremiah Ortiz continues to be the Toppers’ number one option on the ground, rushing for 18 attempts, 100 yards and a score last week. Primarily using a one running back system, the Toppers used an assortment of backs last week, allowing Ortiz to catch a breather.
The top two receivers for the Toppers did not play last week against Concord, but other wide outs stepped up to the plate. Freshmen Isaiah Robinson and Ridge Durbin, and senior Theodore Mayo hauled in a touchdown apiece, giving O’Connor many options down field.
Tonight’s matchup is going to be anything but easy for the Toppers, but if they can shut down the Greyhounds’ running game, WLU has a great chance to upset ENMU.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m., an hour earlier than typical Thursday night games. Be sure to watch the game online at hilltoppersports.com and follow along here on the Trumpet Online for a game recap.
Photo credit: Savanna Sieger