Hilltoppers come up just short against Notre Dame

By Cody Shook, Sports Editor

The West Liberty football team lost in a hard fought 24-19 battle against the Notre Dame Fighting Falcons tonight at West Family Stadium. With this loss, the Hilltoppers fall to 2-3 on the season and the Falcons improve to 4-1.

The defense stepped up huge early in the first quarter forcing an interception deep in Hilltopper territory. Junior quarterback Brenton Colabella immediately got the offense going, taking them all the way down the field into the end zone after a touchdown pass to running back Jeremiah Ortiz from 16-yards out. After a Christian Morris extra point field goal was made, the Hilltoppers went up 7-0 with six and a half minutes left in the first quarter.

On the very next drive, the Falcons had a very long touchdown run nullified by a holding call. However, that didn’t stop them from getting into to the end zone two plays later on a Malik Grove 3-yard touchdown run. After a Tanner Harding extra point field goal was made, the Falcons tied it up 7-7 with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

On Notre Dame’s second possession of the second quarter, Grove lead his team down the field on an 80-yard drive where it was capped off with a Brian Walker 25-yard touchdown run. Harding split the uprights on the extra point attempt to put the Falcons up 14-7 with 10:45 left in the first half.

Notre Dame capitalized on a fumble around mid-field by driving down the field and finding the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown run by Nehemiah Brown. Harding connected on his third extra point attempt to put the Falcons up 21-7 late in the first half. The Falcons got one more possession before the first half ended, and they were able to connect on a 24-yard field goal by Harding to go up 24-7 with nine and a half seconds left in the second quarter.

The Hilltoppers got the ball first to start the third quarter and Colabella got the team deep in Falcon territory after a few good runs by Ortiz. Morris split the uprights with a 31-yard field goal to tighten the score, but the Falcons still lead 24-10 early in the third quarter.

On the ensuing drive, the Toppers defense forced a fourth down punt. On the punt, there was a high snap that went all the way into the end zone, where the punter just ran out of the back of the end zone and took the two point safety which made it a 24-12 game in favor of Notre Dame with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

When the Hilltoppers got the ball back, they were unable to do anything so they had to punt it away. Luckily for them, the defense came to play and they forced a punt deep in Falcon territory, which gave the Hilltoppers the ball on the Notre Dame 42-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Colabella aired it out to freshman wide receiver Isaiah Robinson for a 42-yard touchdown. Morris tacked on the extra point attempt which made it a 24-19 game, with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.

The Falcons had a chance at scoring a field goal with six minutes left in the game but the 38-yard attempt missed wide left and gave the Hilltoppers the ball on their own 21 yard line. They were unable to get anything going, however, so they had to punt it away with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

With two minutes and forty-three seconds left in the game, the Falcons faced a fourth and seven but were unable to complete the long pass down the right sideline so the Hilltoppers took over on downs. Long completions to Michael McLean and Ian Kelly put the offense in Falcon territory. The drive came down to a fourth and 17 when Colabella threw it down the field, but was unable to find an open receiver. Notre Dame took a knee on it and walked away with the 24-19 victory.

The Hilltoppers will be back in action next Saturday as they will head to Shepherdstown, W.Va. to take on the third ranked team in the nation, the Shepherd Rams. Be sure to grab next week’s issue of the Trumpet for game previews and player profiles.

Photo credits: Megan Sayre