PRINCETON - The West Liberty football team wasn't rewarded with a second consecutive NCAA Division II playoff bid despite a late-season surge, but Coach Roger Waialae's high-powered Hilltoppers were front and center Tuesday when the West Virginia Conference coaches released their annual All-WVIAC team.
The first NCAA Division II squad in more than two decades to lead the nation in total offense in back-to-back seasons, West Liberty had seven first-team All-WVIAC selections and Hilltopper players collected three of the league's major awards. In all, 15 members of the Black and Gold were accorded All-Conference honors.
Senior quarterback Zach Amedro won his second consecutive WVIAC Offensive Player of the Year award while senior linebacker Clay Beeler was honored as the WVIAC Defensive Player of the Year and first-year defensive back Alec Wood was named WVIAC Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Senior tight end Ryan Travis, senior tailback Kevon Calhoun and senior center Nick Madia joined Amedro and Beeler as repeat first-team picks, while junior receiver David Carter and junior offensive tackle Larry Wriedt earned first-team laurels in their first season with the Hilltoppers program.
Senior outside linebacker Jayson Keyser was a second-team All-WVIAC honoree while senior receiver Willie Walker, junior offensive lineman Ryan Scaperotta, junior nose tackle Matt Betz, junior defensive end Isaac Omaits, junior defensive tackle Nick Ringwalt, sophomore defensive tackle Leonidas Redding and Wood all received honorable mention from the league coaches.
With seven first-team selections, the Hilltopper football program has produced a total of 42 first-team All-WVIAC performers during Waialae's six seasons at the helm.
Amedro is West Liberty's third WVIAC Offensive Player of the Year and the first to win back-to-back awards. Frank Zebrasky was the 1979 winner while Randy Little shared the 1974 award with Salem's Jack Deloplaine. The Hilltoppers QB is the ninth man in conference history to win multiple Offensive Player of the Year awards. Former Shepherd running back Dervon Wallace (2006-07) was the most recent repeat honoree.
Beeler became West Liberty's fifth WVIAC Defensive Player of the Year after coming up one vote shy a season ago. Darren Banks won the 2008 award while Hilltoppers Hall of Famer E.J. Burt won back-to-back honors in 1999 and 2000. Dave Peterson shared the 1995 award with West Virginia State's Quinton Barnes and Jim Calhoun was the 1977 honoree. West Liberty Hall of Famer Ed ''Buzz'' Evans won the first WVIAC Defensive Player of the Year award in 1974.
Wood, the son of Hilltoppers team physician and former WLU football player Dr. Vic Wood, is the recipient of the inaugural WVIAC Defensive Freshman of the Year award. Fairmont State quarterback Logan Moore was named WVIAC Offensive Freshman of the Year.
West Liberty went 7-3 to post its sixth consecutive winning season under Waialae the school's longest unbroken string of success since World War II and closed out the year with three straight victories to finish eighth in the final Super Region One ranking. Playoff bids are awarded to the top six teams.
The Hilltoppers' season-ending 56-33 rout of Concord lifted West Liberty into a second-place tie in the final WVIAC standings. West Liberty has finished first or second in the WVIAC in each of the past five seasons.
Following are brief capsules on the Hilltoppers' Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Freshman of the Year along with the rest of the first- and second-team selections.
Zach Amedro: The 6-foot, 200-pound senior from Moundsville cemented his status as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NCAA Division-II history with a record-setting senior year. Amedro completed 329 of 485 passes for 4,058 yards and an NCAA Division II season-high 38 TDs with just eight interceptions. He became the leading passer in NCAA Division II history with 14,733 career passing yards and also set all-time records for pass completions, passing yards per game, 300-yard passing games and 300-yard total offense games. This fall, he was only the second NCAA Division II quarterback ever to average more than 400 passing yards a game for an entire season and finished among the top 10 nationally in almost every passing category.
Clay Beeler: The 6-3, 225-pound senior from Waverly, Ohio, closed out his career in style with his third All-WVIAC citation and the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Despite missing a midseason game due to a knee injury and playing hurt for the remainder of the year, Beeler still led all WVIAC defensive players with an average of 9.1 tackles per game. He had nine tackles-for-loss, a pair of quarterback sacks, broke up two passes and had a forced fumble. His career-high 18-tackle day at Seton Hill was tops in the WVIAC this fall and ranked among the top 10 in the nation.
Alec Wood: The 6-0, 195-pound freshman from Wheeling was an immediate impact player in the Hilltoppers secondary. He was the team's second-leading tackler with 51 stops and was also charted with five tackles-for-loss, three quarterback sacks, one pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. In addition to his defensive exploits, Wood also excelled on special teams, providing a Hilltoppers season highlight with a 69-yard punt return touchdown in a victory at Southern Connecticut.
David Carter: The 6-3, 185-pound junior from Los Angeles, Calif., came on strong down the stretch to emerge as one of the most dangerous receivers in the WVIAC. He finished the season with 64 catches for 787 yards and 11 TDs.
Nick Madia: The 6-1, 300-pound senior from Valencia, Calif., earned his second consecutive first-team All-WVIAC berth after anchoring the Hilltoppers offensive line from his center position.
Larry Wriedt: The 6-7, 320-pound junior from Sacramento, Calif., started every game at right tackle for West Liberty in his first year after transferring from a California junior college.
Jayson Keyser: The 6-2, 185-pounder from Bellaire moved up to second-team status this year after earning honorable mention as a junior. Keyser ranked among the team's leading tacklers with 48 stops, including 3.5 for loss, one quarterback sack, one quarterback hurry and four pass break-ups. He also blocked a field-goal attempt at Concord.