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HILLTOPPERS ‘STREAK’ INTO NATIONAL RANKINGS

October 13, 2009

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University football team certainly knows how to put on a show for Homecoming.

                Coach Roger Waialae’s high-powered offense was clicking on all cylinders Saturday as West Liberty rode its longest winning streak in three decades all the way to the Hilltoppers’ first national Top 25 ranking of the NCAA Division II era.

                The 52-30 romp past West Virginia State before a raucous crowd of alumni, friends and family was the sixth straight win for West Liberty (6-1, 4-0).

                That’s the Hilltoppers’ longest winning streak since the 1979 squad reeled off seven straight wins en route to a WVIAC championship.

travis td

West Liberty wide receiver Ryan Travis pulls in his third touchdown catch of the day during Saturday’s 52-30 victory against West Virginia State. Travis had 8 catches for 100 yards and 3 scores on the afternoon.

                Saturday’s victory also vaulted West Liberty into the No. 21 spot in this week’s NCAA Division II coaches’ poll. It’s the first time the Hilltoppers have been nationally ranked since making the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II affiliation in the mid-1990s.

                West Liberty also moved up to the No. 7 spot in the weekly NCAA Division II Super Region I rankings. That’s the highest regional ranking in school history, which is fairly significant. The regional rankings determine the region’s six playoff entries at the end of the season.

                “The rankings bring a lot of good publicity to the university and the program,” Waialae said, “but they don’t affect anything we do on or off the field. We only worry about the things we control. We can control the way we prepare for every game and we can control the way we play each Saturday.

                “If we keep winning, the rankings will take care of themselves when it’s all said and done.”

                The West Virginia State defense came into the game ranked among the top 10 nationally against the pass but the Yellow Jackets were no match for Hilltopper QB Zach Amedro and his talented corps of wide receivers. The hosts piled up 52 points and 547 yards of total offense to take over the No. 1 spot nationally in both categories.

                Amedro completed 26-of-33 passes for 337 yards and 5 TDs. It was the seventh straight 300-yard passing performance for the junior standout, who broke his own school single-season record – and took over the national lead – with his 27th touchdown pass of the year. He also ranks No. 2 nationally in passing yards (362.4) and No. 3 in total offense (360.1).

                Ryan Travis had 8 catches for 100 yards and 3 TDs while Eddie Hills also caught 8 passes for 85 yards. Kashif Walls had 3 catches for 68 yards, including his 11th and 12th TD grabs of the year.

                Kevon Calhoun kept the West Liberty rushing game in high gear. The junior tailback ran for 157 yards and 2 TDs on just 14 carries while adding 35 more yards on 3 pass receptions. He now ranks No. 6 nationally in rushing (128.9) and is No. 2 in the nation in yards per carry (7.27).

                “When I see numbers like that, it tells me our offense is doing a lot of things well,” Waialae said. “Some players wind up receiving individual accolades but that just shows everybody is doing their part. The only thing we’re focusing on in practice is getting everyone as healthy as possible and doing what we do best every time we take the field.”

                The Hilltoppers take their six-game win streak on the road Saturday for a crucial WVIAC showdown against Shepherd (5-2, 4-1), which is ranked No. 9 in the region and is also receiving votes in the national Top 25. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Ram Stadium in Shepherdstown.

                “At this point of the season, any loss will knock you out of the top 10 in the region,” Waialae said, “so the most important game on the schedule is always your next game. Shepherd really seems to be hitting their stride now and they’re always tough at home so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

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