WEST LIBERTY - If you're a West Liberty lineman, you have to be able to move. These days, that also goes for the guys across the defensive front.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Monteroso has switched to more of a zone pressure that calls, at times, for his linemen to drop into coverage in attempt to confuse the opposing quarterback. Former Martins Ferry standout Ryan Mirich, all 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds of him, seems to like it.
On Glenville's first offensive play Saturday, in what ultimately turned into a 47-21 Hilltoppers rout at Russek Field, Mirich dropped and found himself wide open. Pioneers quarterback Darold Hughes hit him in stride.
''He should have had a second one,'' Monteroso said matter of factly. ''We did the same stunt and I thought he was going to pick it (but) he just didn't drop wide enough.
''The kids up front, though, it starts with the four up front.''
Moments later, Mirich recovered a Glenville fumble that was caused by Weir graduate Mike Buffo.
Get Off the Field!
West Liberty coach Roger Waialae has been lamenting the defense's inability to get off the field on third down this season. Things appear to be looking up in that regard.
The Hilltoppers did allow a couple early conversions in the first half that led to a Glenville score, and then one more in the second half, but that was it. The Pioneers finished 3 of 16 in such situations.
''Third down is a mental down. It's a mentality of 'you've got to stop them,' '' Monteroso said. ''With young DBs, people are taking advantage of that and we're trying to be too cautious.
''We had a bunch of guys injured and we had kids playing out of position all over the place. I'll tell you one thing, they played well.''
Not everything went according to plan, however.
After a third-quarter Hilltoppers touchdown, leading tackler Clay Beeler went down in a pile on the ensuing extra-point attempt. All indications are it's a torn ACL, ending the senior's illustrious career.
''We'll be able to replace the production, but there's the leadership factor that he brings,'' Waialae said. ''Somebody is going to have to step up there and become a leader.''
The offensive line is also being hit hard with the injury bug. Jose Baez went down again, and Dan Srch has a pectoral issue.
''We're getting younger and younger with each injury,'' Waialae said. ''The injuries are just compiling.
''We do have depth, but I just feel sorry for some of those kids because it's their senior year.''
Waialae said he found out roughly 45 minutes before the game that running back Kevon Calhoun would have to sit with an ankle injury suffered on the first play of last week's victory at Fairmont State. In his stead was former Wheeling Central all-stater DeVaughn Gordon.
''DeVaughn did an adequate job learning on the fly,'' Waialae said. ''He still has some things that he has to pick up and do better.
''The best thing was, Kevon was right there with him on every play and encouraging and telling him what he needed to do.
''That's the kind of teamwork we need.''
Gordon carried 19 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Pauly Sure (Handed)
With all the weapons West Liberty has, a guy like senior Pauly Ferguson sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Well, except when quarterback Zach Amedro is scanning the field.
Ferguson caught eight passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against Glenville.
''He's been here a long time,'' Waialae said. '' That's the one beauty of our offense. Ryan Travis is getting the production, but it's opening everyone else up.
''(Defenses) are running to Ryan Travis and he's opening people up and Zach is finding the other people.''
Ferguson was one of three Hilltoppers receivers to eclipse 100 yards. Travis caught 13 for 126 and a touchdown, and Jermaine Carter caught nine for 112 and a TD.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net