WEST LIBERTY West Liberty head coach Roger Waialae's Hilltoppers closed out spring drills with a spirited Black and Gold scrimmage that gave Waialae a good long look at most of his roster heading into WLU's inaugural season of Mountain East Conference competition and confirmed what Waialae and most observers already knew.
"I think our defense is going to be really good," Waialae said after watching the Gold (defense) put on a dominating performance against the Black (offense) in the 15th and final session of the spring.
The West Liberty returns many of its top playmakers from last year's playmaking unit that led the nation in defensive touchdowns and even though the start of the 2013 campaign is still five months away, the Hilltopper defense looked to be in mid-season form on Saturday.
After recording three sacks and holding the offense to one first down over the first two possessions of the scrimmage, the defense found its way into the end zone before the offense as defensive back Kane Boroski alertly snatched a deflected pass out of the air just across midfield and ran it all the way back for a 53-yard touchdown.
It was the first of four interceptions by the defense three of them by Boroski. The Gold squad also took advantage of the scrimmage's no-contact rule on quarterbacks to finish the day with 13 sacks.
"It's pretty much what I expected," Waialae said. "Some of those sacks probably wouldn't have been sacks in a live game but by the same token, there's no excuse for some of the mental mistakes we were making to put ourselves in that position. We have a lot of speed on defense and a lot of kids who have been together for three or four years now, so it's a pretty veteran group that plays well together. I thought we showed we could be equally effective out of a three-man front or a four-man front, which opens up a lot of things for us."
There were some bright spots on offense. Dylan Lagarde, the Hilltoppers' returning starter at quarterback, led the first touchdown drive of the day. Four completions to four different receivers set up first-and-goal at the Gold 3. Two snaps later, H-Back R.J. Thomas a transfer from California (Pa.) powered his way in from four yards out.
Boroski snuffed out promising drives with interceptions on the next two possessions before backup QB Chris Kiedaisch led another scoring drive. This one covered 62 yards in 11 snaps with TBs Isiah Moody and Devone Penick shouldering most of the workload. Penick converted a key third-and-6 with an 18-yard scamper to the Gold 3 and scored on the next snap when he spun off a would-be tackler at the 2 and dove into the end zone.
First-year quarterback Jerimy Mask, a transfer from Hargrave Military Academy, wrapped things up with a 60-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Ben Rogers.
The four quarterbacks Lagarde, Kiedaisch, Mask and Tyler Tucci combined to complete 20-of-37 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. Moody was the game's leading rusher with 65 yards on 13 carries while Penick, another newcomer from Hargrave, finished with 61 yards on 9 carries. Rogers led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards while University of Akron transfer Dylan Potts had three catches for 55 yards.
"Obviously we have to get better on both sides of the ball," Waialae said, "but I like where we're at coming out of the spring. We had good competition at just about every position for the most part. The defense did win most of the battles but the offense had a couple of good days, too. We know if we can move the ball against our defense, we should be able to move it against anybody."