Wheeling rips past West Liberty, 42-19
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. (April 3) - The Cardinal defense forced seven turnovers and freshman quarterback Jalen Lea (Washington, D.C./National Christian Academy) threw for four touchdowns in a 42-19 rout at West Liberty Saturday night.
The Wheeling University football team (2-1) out-scored the Hilltoppers (1-2) 28-to-6 over the final 26 minutes of the game to help secure the program's first win in two tries against its Ohio County rival.
Lea finished the evening 9-of-17 for 216 yards and four touchdowns (zero interceptions). He also added a team-high 80 yards rushing on 12 attempts.
Junior wide receiver Ryan LaFollette (Woodsfield, Ohio/Monroe Central) led all players with 144 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. Junior tight end Tristan Ballard (Boardman, Ohio/Sharon (Pa.)) posted three receptions for 39 yards and a score, while senior wide receiver Jaquaun Davidson (Duquesne, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) added two catches for 23 yards and a touchdown
Sophomore running back Eli Young (Worthington, Ohio/Kilbourne) carried the ball 12 times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
West Liberty took a 3-0 lead near the 10-minute mark of the first quarter and looked poised to add to its lead on its next drive. The Wheeling defense came up huge when sophomore linebacker Dalton Hoover (Mingo Junction, Ohio/Martins Ferry) stepped in front of a pass on the 10-yard line to end the threat and keep the score at 3-0.
After another Hilltopper interception deep in Cardinal territory, Lea found LaFollette on a quick slant route that turned into an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown to make the score 7-3 with 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
West Liberty retook the lead with a touchdown on a 4th-and-Goal from the 2-yard line that made the score 10-7 with 6:42 to play in the second quarter.
The Hilltoppers looked like it would enjoy a lead at halftime, but a fumble in the final minute recovered by junior Myck Brown (Washington, Pa./Washington) at the West Liberty 27-yard line setup more Wheeling points. Lea cashed in four plays later when he found Davidson for a 14-yard touchdown that made the score 14-10 heading into halftime.
West Liberty converted its second field goal of the game to make it a 14-13 game with 10:31 to play in the third quarter.
The Cardinals answered again when Lea connected with LaFollette for a 48-yard touchdown reception that made the score 21-13 at the 8:07-mark of the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers forced a turnover of its own in Cardinal territory and scored to draw within two points, 21-19, with 4:16 left in the third quarter (PAT blocked).
A 76-yard kickoff return by junior Chris Canaday (Forestville, Md./Duval) helped setup the Cardinals on the ensuing possession. Lea found Ballard over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown that rebuilt the lead to 28-19 with 2:14 to play in the third quarter.
Wheeling got the ball back near midfield after a punt and went on a eight-play drive that was capped off with a five-yard touchdown run by Young to make the score 35-19.
On West Liberty's first play of the next drive, Hilltopper quarterback Jack Allison fumbled the ball in the backfield and sophomore linebacker Josiah Wright (Loganville, Ga./Loganville) scooped the ball up and scored to put the game away and increase the lead to 42-19 with 11:32 remaining on the clock.
Wheeling out-gained West Liberty 368 to 269 for the evening and turned the ball over twice, with seven takeaways on defense.
The Cardinals were only 4-of-12 on third down conversions, compared to the 8-of-16 converted by the Hilltopppers. Both teams had 18 first downs, but Wheeling averaged 6.24 yards per play, compared to the 3.79 posted by West Liberty.
Hoover led the Cardinals with 10 tackles (eight solo), including 2.5 tackles for loss, and an interception.
Wheeling will play its home-opener next Saturday, April 10 when it takes on Notre Dame College (3-0) in a game with massive Mountain East Conference (MEC) North Division implications.
A kick-off time for the game has not been determined. Per the Wheeling Attendance Policy, tickets will not be sold for the game and outside fans are not permitted. The game will stream live on the Mountain East App and mountaineast.tv online.
GAME NOTES: The 42 points is a new single-game scoring record for the program ... The Wheeling defense had nine tackles for loss ... Wheeling place kicker Matthew Greenwood (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) converted all six of his PATs ... West Liberty running back Quincy Wimbush rushed for 91 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns ... Wheeling was flagged five times for 46 yards, compared to the 13 penalties for 107 yards charged to the Hilltoppers.