IT TOOK six games, but West Liberty finally got off the schneid and secured its first victory last weekend.
The Hilltoppers got off to an abysmal start to the 2011 season. True, West Liberty lost a boatload of talent off teams that made successive trips to the NCAA Division II postseason.
But few could have predicted the 0-5 start that not only saw the Hilltoppers losing, but losing big.
That came to an end Saturday on the turf at Russek Field in a 28-20 homecoming triumph against West Virginia State.
Beating the Yellow Jackets and their 1-4 overall record won't cause even the most diehard fans to signal for a complete reversal of fortune But for a team struggling through what was a 5-game losing streak, any win is a good one.
A few local boys played hefty rolls in the contest, all coming on the defensive side of the ball.
Buckeye Local's Isaac Omaits tied for team high in tackles with seven, including 2 1/2 behind the line with a pair of sacks.
Wheeling Park's Alec Wood charted five stops, one tackle for a loss and snagged a key interception.
But the biggest contribution likely came from Martins Ferry's Marco Ricchetti, who finished with just two tackles.
Trailing 21-20, the Yellow Jackets had driven deep into Hilltoppers' territory late in the fourth quarter.
Facing a 4th-and-goal from the WL 3-yard line, State elected to send in the field goal unit.
But Ricchetti came hard off the edge and blocked the kick. West Liberty's Carl Hayles scooped up the blocked kick and raced 92 yards for the decisive final touchdown.
John Marshall's Mark Sampson had one catch but it resulted in a 33-yard scoring strike from Logan Moore as Fairmont State defeated Bowie State 49-20.
Muskingum's hot start came to a screeching halt Saturday with a 17-7 loss to Ohio Athletic Conference foe Heidelberg.
The Muskies highly-ranked defense did it's job, keeping Student Princes' back Germany Woods out of the end zone.
Heidelberg was held to one touchdown and three field goals.
Muskingum's offense, however, wasn't as fortunate.
The Muskies were able to move the ball on the Student Princes but seemed to hit a brick wall whenever they got inside the red zone.
Dalton Smith, who accounted for Muskingum's lone touchdown on a run, was intercepted four times. All four interceptions came inside the Heidelberg 30-yard line.
Smith ran for 102 yards and the touchdown while passing for 169 yards in the loss.
Defensively, Cambridge's James Beatty led the local contingent with six tackles. St. Clairsville's Jake Antolak added five. Bridgeport's Sean West, the conference sack leader, was held without a tackle.
Martins Ferry's Cody McGee had three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown as Waynesburg improved to 4-1 with a 47-33 triumph against Geneva.
Beaver Local's Shawn Mercer charted six tackles, including one for a loss, in Grove City's 37-7 loss to Thomas More.
Martins Ferry's Jeremy Murray ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in limited action as Mount Union ran roughshod over Ohio Athletic Conference opponent Marietta. Buckeye Trail product Dan Starr had six stops with one behind the line in defeat for the Pioneers.
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