Toppers pitch a shutout
INSTITUTE, W.Va. The West Liberty University football team notched its first shutout since 2008 here Saturday afternoon, remaining unbeaten in Mountain East Conference play with a 9-0 whitewash of West Virginia State at muddy Lakin Field.
Bryan Arbes banged home three first-half field goals and the Hilltoppers (2-1, 2-0) used a swarming defensive effort to hold the Yellow Jackets (0-3, 0-2) to just 6 first downs and 142 yards of total offense in a dominating performance.
Field conditions deteriorated rapidly as the game went on due to the rain, heavy at times, which had soaked the Charleston area throughout the morning and continued for much of the day.
West Liberty struck first when QB Dylan Lagarde rolled left and lobbed a 45-yard bomb to Javon Murphy on the game’s very first play from scrimmage, giving the Hilltoppers a first down at the State 25. West Liberty picked up another first down but missed an open Dylan Potts over the middle for a would-be touchdown before settling for a 29-yard field goal by Arbes with 12:07 on the clock.
Special teams, a strength for the Hilltoppers all season, set up West Liberty’s next score when State’s Romell Haley muffed a punt by Griffin Yocum and a hustling Kane Boroski recovered for WLU at the West Virginia State 21.
Kenjay Trueblood made it first-and-goal at the 5 with a twisting 11-yard run on second-and-5 from the 16 but the WVSU defense came up with a goal line stand to force a 19-yard field goal by Arbes for a 6-0 West Liberty lead at 11:40 of the second quarter.
Following an interception by William Merritt at the State 40, the Yellow Jackets “marched” 26 yards in 10 plays before turning the ball over on downs at the WLU 34. It was their longest drive of the day.
The Hilltoppers took over with just 1:21 left in the half and moved smartly down the field with Lagarde looking very comfortable in the 2-minute offense.
A clutch 15-yard completion to Daree Goodwin on fourth-and-12 from the State 40 put West Liberty in scoring position at the 25 with just 7 seconds remaining. Lagarde was sacked on the next play as time expired but a facemask penalty negated the sack, giving WLU another first down at the State 13.
Arbes came on for his third field goal of the half, a 30-yarder, and the Hilltoppers danced through the raindrops into the locker room with a 9-0 lead.
West Virginia State’s best chance to get back into the game came early in the third quarter when West Liberty turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions. Each time, however, the Hilltopper defense came up big.
An interception by Haley gave State the ball at the WLU 45 but a penalty, a sack and two incompletions forced the hosts to punt the ball away from their own 48.
Two snaps later, Trueblood and Lagarde failed to connect on a handoff and the Yellow Jackets recovered at the West Liberty 20. Le’Floyd Phillips broke off an 11-yard run to the WLU 9 but two running plays netted just one more yard and senior CB Rod White the reigning MEC Defensive Player of the Week intercepted Tyler Seals’ third-down pass in the end zone to end the threat.
West Virginia State never entered West Liberty territory again with Coach Roger Waialae turning more and more to his running game to chew up the clock and salt away the Hilltoppers’ first shutout since 2008.