It rained on their parade. So, what else is new?
"It always rains for the Spring Game," laughed West Liberty's Roger Waialae. "I was a little surprised to see (that) many people come out to watch."
The Hilltopper faithful are seeking an anticipated 2012 upgrade from last fall's debacle of a season which culminated with a 1-10 record.
WEST Liberty wideout Hakeem Cartright gets loose in the open field pursued by defenders Bobby Spence (25), and Kane Boroski (35), during Saturday’s annual Black and Gold Scrimmage.
"We were demolished by injuries. That, and the fact we were replacing a large number of players that graduated," Waialae noted.
This adversity followed a pair of monumental campaigns that earned WLU national prominence. Behind record-shattering quarterback Zach Amedro and a prolific receiving corps, Hilltopper football became the hottest ticket in town.
Waialae's 2011 combine, however, experienced one sorry Saturday after another - save for a 28-20 midseason Homecoming win against West Virginia State.
The program brought in Division I transfer quarterback L.D. Crow, a 6-3, 220-pound Florida native. Crow's numbers were serviceable if not spectacular.
During Saturday's Black and Gold scrimmage, Crow completed 10-of-19 passes for 109 yards.
"All in all, L.D. is taking positive steps," Waialae advised. "Unfortunately, his only interception of the spring happened (today). Obviously, L.D. wants to have a productive senior season. We feel he'll be more comfortable (in our system) his second season."
Waialae seemed equally pleased with WL's defensive unit, in particular 6-2, 295-pound nose guard Nate Maleski. The Bridgeport High product was a spring standout.
"No player made more of an impact than Nate," Waialae noted. "We're all excited about his continuing development.
An early downer, however, has the defensive unit reeling from the loss of all-conference defensive back Alex Wood. The former Wheeling Park ace is facing knee surgery and will redshirt this fall.
Martins Ferry's Marco Ricchetti enters his junior season playing with supreme confidence, according to Waialae.
"Marco's looking to be one of our defensive leaders and could be among the league's top safeties," the 'Toppers' coach suggested.
Sophomore linebacker Marcus Schumacher (Monroe Central) is another local product in search of additional minutes.
"Considering we held out 22 players, we were reasonably pleased with (Saturday's) play on the field," Waialae related.
This season's returnees (17 starters, 42 lettermen) long ago buried the bad vibes of 2011," Waialae observed. "I can tell you the players are much more resilient than the coaches," he laughed.
"All of us are committed to turning it around and getting back to the level we're accustomed to."
WEST LIBERTY has tweaked the 2012 schedule, adding a pair of non-conference opponents in Catawba (N.C.) and Virginia State. They replace Edinboro (Pa.) and Southern Connecticut.
WLU's 2012 slate features six home games with Catawba invading Sept. 1 in the season opener. Additional home opponents include W. Va. Wesleyan, Glenville, Shepherd, Charleston and UNC-Penbroke.
I'D love to think the Penguins will win their third straight today against the Flyers and force a dramatic game seven Tuesday night in the Consol Energy Center.
Having said that, I expect Philly to finish off Pittsburgh today in the Wells Fargo Center. You had to figure the Pens were too good to lose four straight. The same holds true for Peter Laviolette's hockey club which is too talented to drop four in a row.....
THE Pirates welcome Colorado for a three-game set beginning Monday night. The Rockies' roster includes 27-year-old reliever Matt Reynolds. The southpaw has local ties with family from Barnesville. Through Friday's action, Reynolds has appeared in five games, exclusively out of the bullpen. He owns a 1-0 record and a 3.38 ERA....
Gibson may be reached at email@example.com