Hilltopper football ends homecoming week with loss to Wheeling University


Santino Kusic

Receiver Chris Charles in action vs. Wheeling University.

It was a tail of two halves as the West Liberty Hilltoppers lost 42-21 against their local rivals Wheeling University at the West Family Stadium on Saturday. The toppers were hoping for a better end to what was an action packed homecoming week on the hilltop, but a pair of interceptions on consecutive West Liberty third downs at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters saw the Cardinals come away victorious, moving themselves into second place in the Mountain East Conference standings.

The Cardinals wasted no time getting started, with a four-play touchdown within the opening two minutes of the game, making the score 7-0 before many of the 4,000 plus hilltopper fans could make it to their seats. Wheeling Quarterback Javon Davis threw his first of five touchdowns before Justin Kaplan got the home team on the board with a 30 yard field goal on the next drive.

Just 24 seconds later, the Cardinal offense put together another quick touchdown, as Davis threw a 57 yard pass to receiver Chris Cannady for his first touchdown of the game, making the score 14-3. The Toppers started to get the ball rolling at the end of the first quarter as junior quarterback Rudy Garcia found Chris Charles on consecutive plays to score their first touchdown of the game. After a failed snap on the resulting conversion attempt, freshman holder Ben Turner was able to pick up the loose ball and run it home for two points before Kaplan converted another field goal to tie the game at the start of the second quarter.

Both teams added another touchdown each before half time, with Davis this time finding Steven Mitchell in the endzone to restore the Cardinals lead, which only lasted six minutes as Quincy Wimbish ran home one of his 26 carries in the game to tie the game at 21-21 at the half time mark.
This year’s Homecoming royalty was named during half time of the game, with Greg Geis being voted as Homecoming King and Olivia Miller being named Homecoming Queen.

The Hilltoppers struggled to gain any offensive momentum in the second half as the Cardinals began to control the game. Lowell Patron was on the receiving end of Davis’ fourth touchdown pass of the day as the visitors regained the lead with three minutes in the third quarter. They were on the scoreboard once again just three minutes later as an interception from Jayvon Johsnon turned into a pick-six, giving Wheeling a 14 point lead heading into the final quarter.

West Liberty threw another interception at the top of the final quarter which put the Cardinals within scoring range. Davis didn’t take long to convert his fifth and final touchdown of the day with Cannady once again being the recipient of a 13-yard pass, which extended their lead to 21 points. The Hilltoppers failed to score in the second half for the third time this season leaving the final score at 42-21.

Head Coach Roger Waileae and his team will be back in action on Saturday as they make the long trip to North Carolina to face off against UNC Pembroke. They will then hit the road for the second week running to play West Virginia State in their penultimate game of the year before returning home on Nov. 12 to finish their season with a match against Frostburg State.