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WVIAC Media Day

August 3, 2009

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – Coach Roger Waialae’s West Liberty squad was one of six football teams to receive at least one first-place vote here Saturday afternoon when the results of the West Virginia Conference’s annual preseason coaches’ poll were announced.

The only WVIAC team with winning records in each of the past four seasons, the Hilltoppers were ranked fourth in one of the most tightly-packed preseason polls in years.

Defending champion Glenville State was the No. 1 pick of the nine coaches with four first-place votes. The next five teams – Charleston, Seton Hill, West Liberty, Shepherd and Fairmont State – all received one first-place vote to form a virtual logjam just behind the Pioneers. West Virginia State, Concord and West Virginia Wesleyan rounded out the poll.

West Liberty must replace All-Region running back Branden Ore, All-American cornerback Darren Banks and record-setting placekicker Billy Hager but Waialae believes his Hilltoppers will be able to show the league coaches that they’re better strategists than prognosticators.

“We did lose three of our top players,” Waialae said, “but this is probably the best team I’ve had coming back since I came here. For the first time, we won’t have to play a lot of freshmen and sophomores. We’re going to be a junior- and senior-laden team and I’m excited about that.

“We have Zach Amedro coming back healthy for his junior season at quarterback. Zach played hurt most of last year but he’s still thrown for more yards in his first two seasons than anyone in the history of our league. Eddie Hills is back. He led the conference in receiving last year as a wide receiver after putting up back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his first two years.

“We have eight starters coming back on defense, which is tremendously important in this league. Our inside linebackers – Nick Harding and Clay Beeler – were the top tacklers in the WVIAC last season. We have just about everybody back except Darren in the secondary and I think we’re going to be better up front.”

Waialae said a strong recruiting class with a good mix of collegiate transfers and high-profile freshmen could be the key to taking West Liberty from second place – its home for the past three seasons – to first.

“We needed to do a better job of protecting our quarterback and pressuring the other team’s quarterback,” Waialae said, “so we made a big push to recruit offensive and defensive linemen and I think it paid off.

“The most improved area of our football team is our offensive line. Guys who started every game for us a year ago will be fighting to keep those jobs this month. We’re deeper and faster on the defensive line, as well. We could rotate as many as 12 defensive linemen every game. We’ve done a lot of good things at West Liberty over the past four seasons. Now it’s time to take that next step.”

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