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It’s Coming Together For WLU

Defense looks strong as Glenville is set for visit

October 7, 2010
By SHAWN RINE, Sports Editor

WEST LIBERTY - When West Liberty football coach Roger Waialae talks about the word balance, he isn't necessarily referring to his team's run-pass ratio. Instead, he means the complete package - offense, defense and special teams.

The Hilltoppers (2-2 overall, 1-1 West Virginia Conference) came closer to perfection in that regard, than they have at any point this season in last week's 43-23 rout of Fairmont State - a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score might indicate. If the coach can get the special teams kinks worked out, Glenville State (3-2, 2-0 WVC) figures to have that much steeper of a hill to climb when it visits Russek Field at 1 p.m. Saturday for Homecoming.

''All around, that's the best we've played,'' Waialae said Wednesday. ''At times in the first half I wasn't happy with not being able to get off the field (defensively).

''The big thing was, in the first half (Fairmont) converted seven third downs of over 8 yards.''

The second half was a much different story.

Behind a hard push up front from Martins Ferry's Ryan Mirch (five tackles, 2.5 for loss, two sacks), Matt Betz (five tackles, 1.5 for loss, one sack), Buckeye Local's Isaac Omaits (two tackles, a sack) and Leon Redding (four tackles), the Hilltoppers limited the Falcons to less than 30 second-half yards and outscored them 26-10. The lone touchdown came with 36 seconds remaining.

''We didn't blitz much in the second half,'' Waialae said. ''The big key was we were able to get pressure only rushing for guys - we didn't have to bring everybody.

''We played 100 times better in the second half.''

The work of the defensive front took the pressure off a secondary that had been victimized heavily to that point in the season. It limited Fairmont quarterback Logan More to 11 completions and 163 yards in 33 attempts.

The icing on the cake was Justin Black's third-quarter interception, the first by a West Liberty defender this season.

''I think the whole team needed that pick,'' Waialae said. ''We had to adjust what we were doing and start putting them into better positions to have success.

''We're going to have to stay that way. We've got good defensive backs, we just have to get them playing with some more confidence.''

The Pioneers, ''like they always are,'' will be a completely different look for the Hilltoppers. Waialae and company have faced mostly big, strong teams this season, but Glenville's game is predicated on speed and athleticism across the board.

''I hate to say this over and over, but it's probably more about what we do,'' Waialae said. ''If we allow them to take control of the tempo of the game, it could be a long afternoon.

''That's what the hard part has been, getting across to the players that it doesn't really matter what the other team is doing.''

DeAndre Johnson leads Glenville's ground game with 364 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Darold Hughes has been good on 83 of 152 for 982 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The leading receiver is Jordan Griffin (24-345-3td).

Offensively, Waialae was pleased by the fact his club produced 580 yards against the Falcons.