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West Liberty Has Winning Formula Against Fairmont

September 25, 2009

The West Liberty University football team has used a different formula for success in reeling off four straight wins against Fairmont State since 2005.

With the Falcons (1-3, 1-1) coming to town Saturday afternoon for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Russek Field, it’s time for Coach Roger Waialae to dust off the old game plans.

Although the Hilltoppers (3-1, 1-0) have featured one of the most explosive offenses in the West Virginia Conference over that span, West Liberty has gotten it done with defense against the Falcons.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Monteroso’s charges have held Fairmont to less than 300 yards of total offense in each of those four games.

West Liberty linebacker Nick Harding (50) draws a bead on W.Va. Wesleyan's Julien Valentin (29) during last week's game in Buckhannon. The team's leading tackler, Harding is out indefinitely after undergoing an emergency appendectomy earlier this week.

West Liberty linebacker Nick Harding (50) draws a bead on W.Va. Wesleyan's Julien Valentin (29) during last week's game in Buckhannon. The team's leading tackler, Harding is out indefinitely after undergoing an emergency appendectomy earlier this week.

 That level of dominance has been necessary as Fairmont’s defense has held up better than most against the Hilltoppers’ high-powered attack. West Liberty has scored just 2 offensive touchdowns each of the past three years and has yet to reach 400 yards of total offense against the Falcons during the Waialae era.

 “It has been a defensive game every year,” Waialae said. “Fairmont always plays very good defense and our defense has played well against them. I don’t think it’s anything specific in terms of schemes or matchups. That’s just the way it’s worked out.”

 The Hilltopper offense will employ an array of weapons to put the Falcons to the test again.

Quarterback Zach Amedro leads the nation with 15 touchdown passes and is averaging nearly 360 yards a game through the air. He needs 97 passing yards and 8 completions to become West Liberty’s career leader in both categories.

Wide receivers Kashif Walls and Eddie Hills lead a deep and talented receiving corps. Walls, a junior sprinter, is the reigning WVIAC Player of the Week after catching 9 passes for 171 yards and 3 TDs in last Saturday’s 49-26 romp against West Virginia Wesleyan. Walls, a two-time All-WVIAC selection, had 9 catches for 106 yards at Wesleyan and leads the WVIAC with 30 receptions on the year.

Junior tailback Kevon Calhoun leads the WVIAC in rushing and ranks among the top 10 nationally at 133.3 yards per game.

The Falcon defense rose to the challenge in a big way against defending WVIAC champion Glenville State last week, forcing a school-record 10 turnovers – including 7 interceptions – in a 50-37 stunner.

The Fairmont offense did its part, rushing for nearly 300 yards against the Pioneers. The Falcons rank No. 9 nationally with 248.3 rushing yards per game. Doug Brazill, Vick Bradford and Omoniyi Bakare have all had at least one 100-yard rushing game this year.

As the season nears the midway point, injuries and illness are impacting both teams.

The Falcons will be without All-WVIAC offensive tackle Matt Khouri, who went down with an injury in last week’s 50-37 upset of Glenville State.

West Liberty will be missing two-time All-WVIAC linebacker and leading tackler Nick Harding. The senior captain was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy this week and is out indefinitely.

“That’s a tough break for Nick but we’re fortunate they caught it early enough that he’ll be all right,” Waialae said.

“Mike Buffo’s been playing well at that spot and Freddy Kimbro’s back healthy again. That’s one of our deeper positions so we have some options.”

One positive on the injury front for West Liberty is the return of sophomore offensive tackle Will Alvarez. The highly-touted Virginia Tech transfer won a starting job in camp but has been out of action with a leg injury since the third snap of the season opener at Edinboro.

West Liberty is back on the road next week as the Hilltoppers travel to Glenville State for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.

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