Wheeling, W. Va. – The Wheeling University football team (0-0) is set to open its season on Thursday when they face Seton Hill (0-0) at 7 p.m. The team made great strides in the spring of 2021 and are looking to build on that experience and take the next step to the top echelon of the Mountain East Conference (MEC).
Last season they played a shortened four-game schedule and split competitions. They scored victories against West Liberty (42-19) and Alderson Broaddus (34-7) while losing to Notre Dame (55-7) and Frostburg State (27-20). They broke the one game record for points scored in a game in team history (42) and a total of 15 players received All-MEC honors for the spring season.
On the offensive side, running back Sy Alli (Pittsburgh, PA./Obama Academy) and wide receiver Ryan lafollette (Woodsfield, OH./Monroe Central) both return after winning All-MEC Second Team honors. Alli was second on the team last season, throwing the ball 35 times for 143 yards and one touchdown while LaFollette was the main target in Wheeling’s quarterbacks last season, recording 14 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
In defense, linebacker Dalton hoover (Mingo Junction, OH./Martins Ferry) and Rich White III (Cleveland, OH./Lakewood St. Edwards) leads the charge as part of a group that sacks all of its 11 starters. Hoover was the team’s top tackle last season with 32 total tackles, 24 solo, while picking up three tackles for a loss. White finished 2020 with five total tackles and defended three assists (break-ups + interceptions) while being the names of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All District Super Region One Team.
One thing Wheeling has now that it hasn’t had in the past is experience. There are 39 fourth and fifth year guys on this team and their roster is as big as it has ever been in team history, with 119 athletes. This experience should help them in 2021 and allow them to grow as a team and program on campus.
“We’ve finally reached a point where we have a certain age and some experience,” said the Wheeling University football head coach. Zac Bruny. “We’re happy with the experience we’re having back, and we can’t wait to see them play.”
Thursday will mark the first time Wheeling and Seton Hill meet in a college game. It is also the first clash between Wheeling and a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) school. This will be a good test for the seasoned Wheeling team as it shows what they can do against a Seton Hill team who have been selected to finish sixth in the PSAC. It will also be the first time Wheeling has crossed state borders into Pennsylvania for a regular season game.
Players to watch
- With the quarterback battle raging in week one, the offensive line is going to be more important than ever for Wheeling. All five starters are back, led by the Spring 2021 All-MEC Honorable Mention Winners Center Aaron Hess (Morristown, TN./Morristown Hamblen) and lineman Cade Raudebaugh (Wooster, OH./Norway).
- Wide receiver Ryan lafollette and tight end Tristan ballard (Boardman, OH./Sharon HS) were Wheeling’s two main targets last season and are looking to make an impact on the passing game. Lafollette had a team high with three touchdowns and an average of nearly 20 yards per catch, while Ballard was targeted 10 times for 102 yards and one touchdown.
- They say defense wins championships, and Dalton hoover is right in the middle of the Cardinals’ defense. He led the team with 32 total tackles last season and is once again looking to make his presence known in midfield.
Thursday night’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. in Greensburg, Pa. You can watch the match live by clicking HERE, or follow live statistics by clicking on HERE.