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Hilltoppers Look to Rebound Against Walsh

September 4, 2009

LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University football team will be on the rebound Saturday when it hosts Walsh (Ohio) in the Hilltoppers’ home opener. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on the MondoTurf at Russek Field.

West Liberty came out on the short end of a shootout at nationally-ranked Edinboro a week ago.snap(2)

The Fighting Scots jumped six spots to No. 15 in this week’s NCAA Division II national coaches’ poll on the strength of their 42-30 victory against the Hilltoppers.

“I’m not into moral victories,” said West Liberty head coach Roger Waialae. “When you play teams of that caliber, you have to take advantage of every opportunity and we didn’t do that.

“Even so, we came out of there feeling like we have a pretty good football team.”

Walsh was 3-8 last year – a rare sub-.500 campaign for veteran head coach Jim Dennison – but the Cavaliers have restocked the larder with a number of NCAA Division I transfers and figure to present a significant challenge.

“We know we’re going up against a good football team this week,” Waialae said. “They’ll be much improved. They’re always well-coached and they’ve added a lot of talented kids.”

West Liberty has some injury hurdles to clear coming out of the Edinboro game.

Virginia Tech transfer Will Alvarez started at right tackle but went down with a leg injury on the third snap of the game. He’ll be out for 2-3 weeks.

Wide receivers Ryan Travis and Kashif Walls are also nursing leg injuries and are questionable for Saturday’s game along with linebacker Fred Kimbro.

That could prove significant since Travis had a game-high 8 catches for 126 yards, Walls had a 36-yard TD grab in his West Liberty debut and Kimbro is a special-teams ace in addition to his defensive work.

But it also highlights what may be the most improved area of the team.

Depth.

“The thing I was happiest about at Edinboro was the way our offensive line came through,” Waialae said.

“We had some injuries late in the week and then lost Alvarez on the first series. After shuffling people around, we wound up with a unit that had almost no reps working together but they rose to the challenge against one of the best teams in the region.”

Junior tailback Kevon Calhoun made the most of his first start at WLU, running for 153 yards and 3 TDs on just 18 carries while adding 35 more yards on 4 pass receptions.

“I was really happy for Kevon,” Waialae said. “The way we spread the field, the tailback gets a lot of opportunities in our offense. Kevon was hungry to play and he played at a very high level.

“We’re probably going to have to get Eddie Hills or Jimmy Burress a series or two at tailback to give Kevon a break but Kevon showed us the same things in the game he had been showing us all through camp.”

Quarterback Zach Amedro bounced back from an early interception return for a touchdown to post his ninth career 300-yard passing game and go over the 6,000-yard mark for his career.

Hills continued to climb the West Liberty charts in numerous categories. The senior WR/DB racked up 130 all-purpose yards on rushing, receiving and kick returns.

All-America linebacker Clay Beeler had his ninth double-figure tackle game in just his 12th career start, notching a dozen stops along with two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble.

Junior tailback Clinton Blossomgame leads the Cavaliers, who return 16 starters and 35 lettermen. He ran for 123 yards on 28 carries in Walsh’s 24-10 loss to West Liberty a year ago.

Among the newcomers are wide receivers Joe Morgan and Teddy Robb – transfers from Illinois and Akron, respectively.

At running back, Elijah Griffin is a transfer from Findlay and the nephew of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. Freshman Reggie Garner rushed for more than 5,000 yards in high school before posting a 1,600-yard rushing season in prep school last fall.

“We pretty much know what to expect,” Waialae said. “They’re going to try to pound it down our throats and then try to catch us with a quick pass over the top.

“There aren’t any breaks on our schedule. We have to be prepared to come out and play good football for 60 minutes every Saturday.”

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