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WVIAC schools hope to earn respect

Area teams face tough Pennsylvania opponents today

by John G. Miller


Area West Virginia Conference football teams hoped to gain a little national attention by opening with strong Division II opponents.

So far, it hasn't worked.

Fairmont State, Glenville and West Virginia Wesleyan are a combined 1-4 against non-conference opponents and it doesn't get any easier this week.

Glenville (1-1) hosts Edinboro while West Virginia Wesleyan (0-2) and Fairmont State (0-2) both travel to Pennsylvania. Wesleyan plays at Indiana while Fairmont visits Slippery Rock.

"Obviously we scheduled these games to gain respect nationally," Wesleyan coach Bill Struble said. "If either a Glenville or a Wesleyan beats an IUP, it not only gives that team some stock nationally, but the entire conference."

Of course, winning would help.

Struble's Bobcats played even with nationally-ranked Slippery Rock until late in the fourth period.

"There were some bright spots, but we're obviously disappointed.

"To be right with them until the final five minutes makes us aware that we could have won the game."

A blocked punt and turnovers hurt Wesleyan, something that needs corrected before today's game with IUP.

"IUP has great tradition," Struble said.

"They are probably one of the top 20 programs in the nation and they are 63-9 at Mitchell Stadium under Frank Cignetti.

"We can't afford any mistakes. They have great athletes on both sides of the ball."

Struble said he was pleased to see several questions answered in last week's loss.

"I thought our young offensive line played well and we ran the ball well," Struble said. "And defensively, I was glad to see we were able to contain their running game."

Struble also praised the play of running back Mike Grippo, receiver Jason Nicewarner and quarterback Scott Gasper.

While Wesleyan has found balance offensively, Glenville State continues to lean heavily on All-American quarterback candidate Wilkie Perez.

The holder of four NCAA Division II passing records, Perez threw the ball 50 times last week in a 27-17 loss to IUP. He was sacked six times.

"IUP did an excellent job of stopping the run and putting pressure on me," Perez said. "And Edinboro is just as good.

"They have a great defensive line and great d-backs. We need to execute."

Fairmont State will also need better execution after two tough losses.

The Falcons lost 23-8 to Saginaw Valley State (Mich.) and then lost 26-20 to California (Pa.) in overtime. Fairmont led that entire game until the fourth period.

Other games on Saturday: Newport News at Concord, West Liberty at Walsh (Ohio), Gardner Webb at West Virginia State, WVU-Tech at Frostburg and Clarion at Shepherd.

All games begin at 1 p.m. except Wesleyan's, which begins at 7 p.m.