WEST LIBERTY - With election season in full roar, the West Liberty football team is getting in on the fun and hopes to present the masses with an easy choice. Having already dropped a pair of games, the Hilltoppers can ill afford another setback if they want to make a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
''The way the region is shaping up, it doesn't look like a three-loss team is going to get in,'' West Liberty coach Roger Waialae said Wednesday. ''We're fortunate in the fact we've play a tougher schedule than the others.
''We want to make people make a decision, but we want to also make sure that's not the reason we're playing the game.''
West Liberty (3-2 overall, 2-2 West Virginia Conference) gets a chance to sling a little mud - and grass - when it travels to Institute on Saturday for a 1:30 kickoff against West Virginia State (0-5, 0-3). This is the only game on the Toppers' schedule that will not be played on turf.
If this were truly a race for office, at least on paper it would be a landslide. The Yellowjackets are being outscored 40-14 and are averaging but 269 yards of offense a game.
''I'm honest with the kids. If we go down there and do what we need to do, it's not a game,'' Waialae said. ''But we've shown the propensity to play down to people.
''The best team we've played is Southern Connecticut, and we dominated.
''Every week we seem to be getting better.''
The offense might get a boost with the return of running back Kevon Calhoun who sat out last week's runaway victory against Glenville State. Remarkably, linebacker Clay Beeler, who suffered a severely strained MCL in the victory and is the defense's backbone, also has a shot to see the field.
''They work so hard with the treatment - they're either in the training room or in class,'' Waialae said. ''Keeping them out (would be) more because I'm afraid their field isn't very good.
''Kevon has a better chance and will be game-time decision. Clay, if it was the Super Bowl, he would play.''
West Liberty had little trouble racking up the yardage last week as quarterback Zach Amedro completed 37 of 55 for 462 yards and five touchdowns on his way to a WVC co-Offensive Player of the Week honor. Three receivers - Ryan Travis, Jermaine Carter and Pauly Ferguson - gained more than 100 yards, and DeVaughn Gordon, taking the place of Calhoun, rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown.
But what concerns Waialae the most, is the Hilltoppers have been shooting themselves in the foot during the first half of games all season, but never more than the last two weeks. Against Glenville, West Liberty led 20-14 at halftime despite holding a considerable advantage in yardage.
''It's the mental lapses,'' Waialae said. ''Then we come out in the second half and don't make those and you see what happens.
''They add up and are keeping people around.''
State's offense is led by sophomore quarterback Ricky Phillips. He threw for 146 yards and ran for 77 more in last week's 48-20 loss at Seton Hill. He's got a couple of big-time targets in Jermain King (25 catches, 368 yards, two TDS) and Landon Johnson (23-161-TD).
''They have a young quarterback that each week seems to be getting better and better,'' Waialae said. ''Defensively, they are a 4-3.
''They will play eight in the box and try to man us up.''