By Jarrod Harris
Times West Virginian
Record breaking win.
The Fighting Falcons of Fairmont defeated the West Liberty Hilltoppers in a nail-bitter on Saturday, 25-20.
FSU’s quarterback Bobby Vega lit up the passing attempts on the day, tallying 67.
The record prior to Saturday’s game was a mere 58 attempts, but was shattered by nine with Vegas efforts.
“I didn’t even know that I dropped back that many times, but hey, I’m a quarterback, so of course I’m going to love it,” said Vega.
Vega would ignite the offense during the second half, but in the first half of play, the Falcons’ defense was on a mission to beat and batter the Hilltopper offensive squad.
“Our entire defense showed up today,” said Fairmont State free safety Bryan Wilson. “Everybody wanted it; everybody never lost heart even when we were put in tough situations. We were still encouraging each other and being there for each other. We never lost heart and wanted that win. Like coach told us, ‘Play with passion.’ We took that to heart and played our hardest.”
Leading the defensive crew was hometown native Trevor Malnick.
Malnick stepped in front of an errant pass from West Liberty’s quarterback L.D. Crow and took the interception for 37 yards to the Hilltoppers’ 28 yard line.
This interception was Malnick’s first of his college career.
“We knew that we were going to go out and try to pressure the quarterback a lot,” said Malnick. “I just read pass, so I dropped to my spot. He threw it faster than what I thought he was going to, so I just tried to tip it. Then when I looked up, it was there, so I just grabbed it and took off.”
This allowed the rest of the defense to feed off the turnover.
The next possession, West Liberty was pinned deep because of an outstanding punt from FSU’s Chris Kish, who placed the kick on West Liberty’s one yard line.
A band of wild Falcons ignited through the Hilltoppers’ offensive line and dropped West Liberty’s running back Anthony Domico for a safety.
“That safety came from a great punt,” said Malnick. “We just came out and blitzed. We knew they were going to run a dive or do play action, so we blitzed right into their play.”
With a lead over the Hilltoppers, Fairmont’s offense started putting the defense in a huge predicament.
The interceptions started.
Because of three interceptions and a fumble, West Liberty was able to turn a 19-0 deficit into a 20-19 lead.
FSU’s defense realistically gave up three touchdowns, but its should be credited for only one touchdown.
“We just knew what we had to do, and we knew what was expected,” said Malnick. “Coach (Mike) Lopez and our defensive coordinator, coach Shahram Shafii, prepared us this entire week. So we knew if we could come out and pressure the ball, we would get some special plays.”
West Liberty’s Marco Ricchetti stepped in front of a pass from Vega, while returning it for 13 yards to the FSU 5 yard line. Three plays later, the Hilltoppers punched in a score that gave them life.
At half, the score was in favor of FSU, 19-13.
However, another FSU offensive meltdown led to a Hilltopper touchdown.
Fairmont’s Andrew Faraimo weaved his way through West Liberty’s defense before he would be hammered. The hit jarred the ball loose, and Jovontae Johnson swooped the football from the turf and took it to the house, while giving West Liberty a 20-19 lead over FSU.
“We took advantage while causing a couple picks and their rushing game was shut out as well,” said Malnick.
Getting redemption, Fairmont’s Vega was tired of making mental mistakes and decided it was time that he would let his defense have a break.
“We just put in this offense three days ago, and it’s a high-tempo, hurry-up offense,” said Vega. “This type of offense is what I’m used to since my junior college did run that, but in the second half, I did feel a little bit more comfortable. They didn’t show us anything different from the first half from what we’ve watched on film, so I felt more at ease.”
He dropped back and let it rip, while throwing the ball over 50 yards in the air to Charaun Goodwin that resulted in an 83-yard bomb and giving the Falcons the lead, 25-20.
“It felt amazing,” said Vega. “Before we went on the field to run that play, C.J. (Goodwin) came to me and asked if he trusted me. He said, ‘Yeah,’ then he made that play a few minutes later. I just thought I overthrew him at first. The defensive back made a great play on C.J. and he kept his footwork and made a huge touchdown for us.”
Having the opportunity to shut the game out, it was time for FSU’s defense to end what they began.
With 3:47 left in the game, and one final West Liberty chance to make an attempt of scoring, FSU’s Bryan Wilson dove to his left and intercepted a pass from Crow. This interception sealed the deal for the Falcons, while giving them the first win of the season.
“I have to praise God because the coverage allowed me to be inside and read the quarterback,” Wilson said. “The pressure that our defensive front caused made the quarterback throw the ball quick, and I saw it, so I dove and caught it.”
The entire defensive front caused five sacks for a total loss of 25 yards, two interceptions that tallied for 37 yards, and a total of just 161 yards of total offense.
“It feels great to get our first win,” said Malnick. “I think this win will turn a lot of stuff around and get us clicking. I just think we will be on the rise from here.”
The Falcons are now 1-3 and will play host to Charleston Sept. 29, at noon.
Email Jarrod Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JarrodHarrisTWV.