Hilltoppers take on Charleston after home opener victory

By Daniel Morgan, Contributing Writer
Coming off a home win against West Virginia Wesleyan, The Hilltoppers (1-1, 1-1 MEC) head downstate to face off against the University of Charleston (2-0, 2-0 MEC) tonight with a 7 p.m. kickoff. 

“Myself and my team have one goal for this week: beat Charleston by any means necessary.” That’s what West Liberty linebacker Zahir Hicks said regarding tonight’s match against the Golden Eagles.
From 2011-2015, the Golden Eagles reigned over the Hilltoppers each season. WLU finally broke through with a win in 2016, and with a close victory last year, the Hilltoppers hope to continue with a winning streak of their own. 
“We were fortunate to come out victorious against Charleston the past few seasons,” Hicks said. “However, we won’t take them lightly. We’ll study their tendencies and plays so that we will be in position to execute what we want to do.” 
In last year’s match at West Family Stadium, which mostly consisted of missed field goals, quarterback Brenton Colabella connected with Marcus Malara for the game’s first and only touchdown. Kicker Christian Morris tacked on a field goal in the first half, the last of the Toppers’ gains for the evening. 
Charleston edged up close with a field goal in each half thanks to kicker Dylan Miles, but he failed a final attempt in the last seconds of the game, giving West Liberty a 9-6 victory. 
The Hilltoppers opened the 2018 season on Aug. 30 with a close 21-19 loss at Urbana University. While West Liberty’s defense shutout the Blue Knights in the second half, their 216-yard surrender in the first half cemented Urbana’s victory. 
However, WLU bounced right back against Wesleyan on Sept. 7 for the Mountain East Conference Game of the Week, achieving a tight 37-34 home opener victory. 
Zach Phillips has thrown for 258 yards so far this season and he has rushed for 209 yards. He is averaging 233 yards per game as the quarterback for the Hilltoppers and he will look to improve that tonight against Golden Eagles. 
“Going into the game, we knew that getting the win would be huge for our momentum going forward,” Hicks said. “This was a statement game. We had to prove to ourselves that we are indeed capable of playing fast, physical, and smart football every week. That mindset is rolling into Charleston.”
The game tonight will be on the road starting at 7 p.m., so be sure to watch it on WLU-TV14. More game previews will be available in next week’s Trumpet.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com