Turnovers Doom Hilltoppers in Home Setback
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – Wheeling scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 7-second span here Saturday night and pulled away to a 42-19 win against turnover-plagued West Liberty under the lights at West Family Stadium.
Despite committing seven turnovers on the night – including four interceptions in the first half alone – the Hilltoppers trailed just 21-19 following Quincy Wimbish’s 13-yard touchdown run at the 4:16 mark of the third quarter.
Chris Canaday jump-started the Cardinals’ ensuing possession with a 76-yard kick return to the WLU 23, setting up a 16-yard scoring toss from QB Jalen Lea to WR Tristan Ballard for a 28-19 Wheeling lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Following a West Liberty 3-and-out, Eli Young capped a short Wheeling drive with a 5-yard TD run to make it 35-19 with 11:32 remaining. On the kickoff, the Hilltopper return man stepped out of bounds at his own 7 and the Cardinals forced a fumble on the very next snap, recovering in the end zone for a defensive score to put the game out of reach.
“Don’t take anything away from Wheeling,” a disappointed Waialae said afterwards. “They played really well tonight. We just had too many self-inflicted wounds. Football is a game of mistakes. We made way more mistakes than they did tonight and they did a good job of capitalizing on them.”
West Liberty QB Jack Allison completed 11-of-23 passes for 149 yards but was charted with five interceptions on the evening. Redshirt freshman QB Jamie Diven came on late in the fourth quarter and his only pass of the night was picked off by the alert Cardinal secondary.
Senior TB Quincy Wimbish posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game, running for 108 yards and two TDs on 29 carries, as the Black and Gold finished with more first downs and more total yards than the visitors but couldn’t overcome the mistakes.
“If you know football, you know that not every interception is the quarterback’s fault,” Waialae said, “and you saw that tonight. We had receivers run bad routes or stop in the pattern. If I thought (the interceptions) were all Jack’s fault, I would have taken him out but I played the position. Some were but some weren’t. I have to do a better job of getting this team to execute consistently and it’s all about getting everybody on the same page.”
The teams traded leads throughout the first half as momentum swung back and forth. West Liberty grabbed the early lead on an Owen Rozanc field goal but a miscommunication in the WLU secondary left Wheeling WR Ryan LaFollette wide open for an 80-yard touchdown catch and run in the final minutes of the first quarter.
The Hilltoppers went back on top with a 2-yard Wimbish TD run midway through the quarter and seemed on their way to halftime with a 10-7 lead when the turnover bug took another bite. A deflected Allison pass was picked off by the Cardinals’ Myck Brown, who returned it to the West Liberty 27 with just under a minute left in the half.
With just 13 seconds showing on the clock, Lea found Jaquawn Davidson in the end zone from 14 yards out to put the visitors on top, 14-10, at intermission.
Lea completed 9-of-17 passes for 216 yards and 4 TDs on the night. LaFollette caught TD passes of 80 and 48 yards to finish with 3 catches for 144 yards through the air. Dalton Hoover led the Cardinal defense with 10 tackles, including 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and a 24-yard interception return. Clay McDonald had a game-high 11 stops for the Hilltoppers, including a tackle-for-loss, a sack and a pass break-up.
West Liberty goes back on the road this week with a trip to Glenville State on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. at Morris Stadium.
Wheeling 42, West Liberty 19
Wheeling 7 7 14 14 – 42
West Liberty 3 7 9 0 – 19
WLU: FG Rozanc 36, 10:32
WU: LaFollette 80 pass from Lea (Greenwood kick), :39
WLU: Wimbish 2 run (Rozanc kick), 6:42
WU: Davidson 14 pass from Lea (Greenwood kick), :13
WLU: FG Rozanc 37, 10:31
WU: LaFollette 48 pass from Lea (Greenwood kick), 8:07
WLU: Wimbish 13 run (kick blocked), 4:16
WU: Ballard 16 pass from Lea (Greenwood kick), 2:14
WU: Young 5 run (Greenwood kick), 11:32
WU: Wright 5 fumble return (Greenwood kick), 11:25
RUSHING: Wheeling 41-92, Young 12-53, Kolb 10-28, Lea 12-20, Whitfield 4-10, Anderson 1-(-2), Canaday 1-(-7), Keenan 1-(-10). West Liberty 48-177, Wimbish 29-108, Frisby 8-33, Smoot 1-13, Allison 5-9, Wilson 2-9, Coffie 1-6, Asbury 1-0, Team 1-(-1).
PASSING: Wheeling 9-18-216-4td-1x (Lea 9-17-216-4td-0x, Anderson 0-1-0-0td-1x). West Liberty 11-24-149-0td-6x (Allison 11-23-149-0td-5x, Ja.Diven 0-1-0-0td-1x)
RECEIVING: Wheeling 9-216, LaFollette 3-144, Ballard 3-39, Davidson 2-23, Keenan 1-10. West Liberty 11-149, Glenn 3-46, Johnson 2-33, Ritz 2-23, Jenkins 2-19, Smoot 1-16, DeVon Harris 1-12
First downs: Wheeling 17, West Liberty 19
Fumbles: Wheeling 2-2, West Liberty 1-1
Penalties: Wheeling 5-46, West Liberty 13-107
Time of Possession: Wheeling 28:49, West Liberty 31:11