For years it seemed all West Liberty had to do was outscore their opponent to win. Zack Amedro would throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns and that would be the game. Besides for Clay Beeler, not much was said about the Topper defense.
Now it’s a different story.
WLU (2-1, 1-0 WVC) has been able to double the amount of wins last year in the first three games of the 2012 season behind a stingy defense that only allowed West Virginia Wesleyan (0-3, 0-1) seven rushing yards in last Saturday’s 33-16 victory.
After the first three weeks of the season, coach Roger Walaiae’s defense ranks first or second in six statistical catigories in the West Virginia Conference, including total defense (2nd at 272.3 ypg).
“Our defense is good,” Walaiae said. “I don’t know another way to put it.”
Leading the way for the Hilltoppers is Marco Ricchetti. The hard-hitting weak saftey leads the team and ranks seventh in the WVC in tackles (25), is ninth in passes defended (3) and 11th in tackles for loss (4). His average of over six solo stops per game puts him tied for 24th in the nation.
Ricchetti earned WVC Defenisve Player of the Week honors after posting a game high 11 tackles with four going for a loss in West Liberty’s 14-13 win against Virginia State (1-2). The junior also grabbed a key interception in the VSU end-zone late in the first half to stop a potential Trojan score.
“We worked together as a defense,” the Martins Ferry native said. “That’s how I got my award. The whole defense played good as a unit.”
The squad has seemed to have gelled together pretty well as the group only allows a little over 70 rushing ypg while coming together to bring down the opposing quarterback eight times.
Though Ricchetti headlines the secondary, the best part of the defense has to be the play of the guys in the trenches.
One of the few bright spots of last season, the defensive line makes the Topper defense go round.
Lead by All-WVIAC honoree Leonidas Redding, the group has accounted for five of the team’s eight sacks and 14 of the team’s 24 tackles in the backfield.
The d-line should be licking their chops heading into Saturday’s game at Fairmont as the Falcons have already given up eight sacks on the season.
FSU (0-3, 0-1) is led by running back Daniel Monroe, who is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season. The sophomore rushed for 112 yards in last weekend’s 24-17 loss to Bowie State.
The Falcons ground game averages 95 ypg, but has yet to find the endzone this season, a complete 180 from last year where Fairmont finished third in the WVC in rushing touchdowns (24).
The matchup that could prove deadly for the host team is the inexpeirence in the middle of the offenisve line. Both the left guard and center are underclassmen (freshman and sophomore, respectviely). That’s something that Redding and nose tackle Nate Maleski can take advantage of.
Look for plenty of huge hits and a big defensive effort as the Hilltoppers are looking to beat Fairmont for the seventh time in the last eight meetings.
Kick off for Saturday’s game is 1 p.m. You can catch all the action on WLU-TV 14 comcast channel 14.