WHEELING, W.Va. — Visiting UNCP held West Liberty to a paltry 216 yards of total offense, including just 95 yards on the ground, but the Hilltoppers scored a pair of touchdowns off of two costly miscues by the Braves to grab a 23-22 victory in the season finale for both teams on Saturday at Russek Field.
The setback marked the third loss in the last four games for UNCP (6-4) who will now focus on offseason work after registering its fourth winning season in the last five years. The triumph marked the second win in the last three outings for West Liberty (6-5) which finished its campaign with a winning record after going 1-10 last season.
Junior Te’vell Williams added another school record to his repertoire, hauling in seven catches for a program-best 162 yards and a pair of scores – the second time this season he has eclipsed the 150-receiving yard plateau. Luke Charles threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-35 passing, but finished his outing with two interceptions as well. Elliott Powell nearly crossed the 100-yard plateau for the third time this season, but settled for 97 yards on 23 carries against WLU.
Isiah Moody ran for 129 yards and a third quarter touchdown on 30 carries to pace the Hilltoppers, who also got a big game from wide receiver Brand Schroeder who caught nine balls for 82 yards.
West Liberty took an early lead on a 20-yard field goal by Jeff Hoak, but UNCP answered back with 12-straight points, including a 23-yard strike from Charles to Williams 33 seconds into the second period. A 48-yard field goal by Connor Haskins gave the visitors a 12-3 edge, but the Hilltoppers used a 75-yard pick-6 by Justin Black to cut their deficit back to 12-10 heading into the break.
UNCP extended its lead out to 22-10 on a field goal by Haskins midway through the third quarter, as well as an 85-yard touchdown reception by Williams just more than three minutes later. After forcing the hosts to go 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, however, L.J. Stroman mishandled the punt attempt and the Hilltoppers made them pay moments later when Moody punched it in from four yards out.
WLU took the final lead of the game on quarterback L.D. Crow’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Rose with 6:54 left to play, but iced the game on the following possession by the Braves when Mario Ricchetti intercepted a pass by Charles in the end zone to turn back a potential go-ahead drive. The Braves looked to have put themselves in position to get possession back with just less than three minutes to play, but Moody broke loose on a 52-yard run to help WLU convert on a 3rd down-and-7 attempt from its own 23-yard line.