INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- The football fortunes at West Virginia State looked a bit brighter last week when the school announced plans for a $2.1 million facilities building at Lakin Field.
The structure should be a recruiting godsend and contribute much-needed good cheer to a program that combined for a 4-26 record in the three previous seasons.
The glad tidings will have to wait, however. After the Yellow Jackets suffered a 52-19 homecoming loss to West Liberty on Saturday afternoon, coach Earl Monroe admonished his players by making them glance up at the scoreboard one more time, hoping the day's agony might serve as inspiration.
Monroe was especially disappointed that his players at times lacked toughness.
"It seemed like we weren't fighting at the end,'' he said, "and I thought that was something that would never happen.''
The Hilltoppers (3-3), who were coming off back-to-back West Virginia Conference losses, led 17-6 at halftime and broke it open by scoring two touchdowns in a 61-second span early in the third quarter - on Dylan Lagarde's 40-yard pass to Brandon Schroeder and Rod White's 32-yard interception return. The 'Toppers suddenly led 31-6.
The visitors achieved another pick-six, Mike Jefferson's 32-yarder midway through the fourth quarter, and in the game's final minute WL's Pierre Blake returned a final interception to the State 6, where the Hilltoppers ended the game by kneeling down three times.
It was that kind of day for the 'Toppers, who amassed 500 yards, forced four turnovers and seven State punts and blocked a field-goal attempt. The Jackets fell to 2-4 and 1-3 in the WVC.
"I honestly thought we were ready to play,'' said Monroe. "For a half, I thought we had a chance. We came out in the second half and still had a little fight, but then we had some bad things go against us, and it was a downhill spiral from there.''