VW wins district title; Phillips wins again

OTTAWA — The Van Wert High School boys’ cross country team won its second consecutive Division II team district championship held at Ottawa Park on Saturday, while Caylee Phillips won the girls’ individual championship.

The Cougars scored 70 points and held off 11 other teams, including runner-up Ottawa-Glandorf (77 points) and third place team Lima Shawnee (80 points) to win back-to-back district titles for the first time since 2011-2012.


The Cougars won the Division II district championship, while Caylee Phillips won the girls individual title. Photo submitted

Sophomore Jacob Wasson led the way for Van Wert, finishing fourth overall with a season-best time of 17:01. Senior Gage Chiles was the second Cougar finisher, placing seventh and covering the 5K course with a lifetime best time of 17:14. Freshman Hunter Sherer again ran a solid race as the team’s third finisher, placing 12th overall while running a 17:33. Junior Holden Reichert (23rd, 18:05) and freshman Gage Wannemacher (27th, 18:13) rounded out the scoring for Van Wert.

“Our goal coming into today was to be the best team racing version of ourselves to date,” head coach Ryan Holliday said. “We knew if we did that, we would put ourselves in great position to defend our title.”

“I’m really proud of our guys and their efforts, and the good news is we have room to improve as we look toward the regional meet.”

Junior Caylee Phillips was the individual champion on the girls’ side, and she led the Lady Cougars squad with her victory. Phillips won the race by running a 19:44.

“Caylee came in knowing that if she ran her race, she’d put herself in position for the win,” Holliday said. “She has become so confident in who she is and how she races. Today was just another step for her.”

Sophomore Rachel Spath was the team’s second finisher, placing 18th in 21:39. Junior Ali Gemmer (26th, 22:23), sophomore Kirsten Dunning (47th, 23:32), and senior Caton Williamson (50th, 24:27) rounded out the team’s top 5 scoring. The girls placed seventh out of 11 teams.

The boys team will compete next Saturday in the Division II regional championship meet in Tiffin at 11:45 a.m., while Phillips will race on the girls’ side at 2:15 p.m.

Van Wert wins sectional championship

DEFIANCE — The Lady Cougars are Division II sectional champions after sweeping Bryan 25-20, 25-17, 25-20 at Defiance High School on Thursday.

Adrianna Grothause led the way with 15 digs and three aces, while Katie Coplin had a team high 17 assists. Reagan Priest finished with a team leading seven kills, and Lainey Werts chipped in with 14 assists.

Van Wert (17-7) will play WBL foe Defiance in the district semifinals at Bluffton University at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

VW’s Moonshower wins weekly award


Van Wert High School’s Paige Moonshower (tennis, softball) is this week’s Van Wert independent/Northwest Ohio Welch Trophy Student Athlete of the Week. The junior, who was nominated by head coach Eli Alvarez, earned First Team All-WBL honors after finishing fourth at first doubles for the second consecutive season. Moonshower also served as a team captain and qualified for Division II districts at Bowling Green, and was named Honorable Mention All-Ohio Northwest District. “Paige is the type of kid that just makes your program better,” Alvarez said “Her leadership, hard work, dedication, and personality makes her a great player and an even better person.” 

Cougars beat Celina, clinch playoff spot

CELINA — Behind four rushing touchdowns by Jake Hilleary, Van Wert secured a spot in the Division IV Region 14 playoffs with a 38-20 win at Celina on Friday. It will be the first postseason appearance for the Cougars since 2000.

“It’s just so special for these guys,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “They put in the work and their really excited for it. It’s a really special time right now, and I’m really happy for our guys.”


Cougar players and coaches chat after Friday’s win at Celina. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

The Cougars had two impressive scoring drives in the opening quarter. After receiving the opening kickoff, Van Wert drove 75 yards in 11 plays and scored on Hilleary’s first touchdown of the game, a two yarder at the 8:28 mark. Nate Place, who left last week’s game against Bath with a shoulder injury went 4-4 for 44 yards on the drive.

After forcing Celina (4-5, 3-5 WBL) into a three and out, the Cougars drove 69 yards in just five plays, including a 45 yard run by Place. The drive ended with a three yard touchdown run by Hilleary and it gave Van Wert a 12-0 lead with 5:09 left in the quarter.

However, the Bulldogs fought back and scored on a 35 yard touchdown pass from Brett Schwieterman to Chase Stephens. The PAT by Austin Cotterman trimmed Van Wert’s lead to five, 12-7.

The Cougars put together another impressive drive, but it ended with a bad snap that cost Van Wert eight yards, then an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Celina 18. The Bulldogs started to drive and reached the 50 before Jalen McCracken intercepted a Schwieterman pass and returned it to the 44.

“That was huge, because it was getting to the point where we were struggling to stop them because they had found their option and where they could hit us with it,” Recker said of McCracken’s interception.

After the turnover, the Cougars ran off seven plays and scored on a 14 yard pass from Place to Dru Johnson, then Place booted the PAT to give Van Wert a 19-7 advantage with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter.
The Cougars weren’t done though. After forcing a Celina punt, Van Wert drove 75 yards in seven plays, including a 39 yard pass from Place to Tanner Barnhart. Place capped the drive with a 12 yard touchdown run with to extend the lead to 26-7 with just 26 seconds left until halftime.

“To finish out the half the way we did was huge,” Recker said.

The Bulldogs reached into their bag of tricks to score in the third quarter. Schwieterman threw a lateral to Cooper Jones, who then fired a 43 yard touchdown pass to Austin Okeley to trim the deficit to 26-14 with 8:41 left in the period.

Van Wert responded with a 10 play, 78 yard drive that ended with Hilleary’s third touchdown, a two yarder with 5:31 left in the quarter.

Hilleary, who finished with 34 carries for 149 yards scored his final touchdown on two yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

“He’s just a tough runner,” Recker said. “He puts his head down, and he’s a guy who’s not going to lose yards. He might go for zero or one once in a while but he’s not going to lose yards because of his running style.”

Celina’s final touchdown came with just 13 seconds left on the clock on a 10 yard pass from Schweiterman to Stephens.

Schweiterman finished the night with 14 carries for 116 yards, but was just 9 of 21 passing for 128 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, leading Recker to credit his defense, especially the front four.

Our defensive line with Joey Schaufelberger and Drew Bagley at the ends and Keagon Hammons and Nathan Temple inside, those guys are just doing a fabulous job, and it frees us up to play five in the secondary.

Place rushed 15 times for 124 yards and completed 15 of 20 passes for 206 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Drew Bagley had four catches for 43 yards, Dru Johnson had four receptions for 40 yards, while Barnhart and Owen Treece each had three catches for 64 and 46 yards respectively.

The Cougars (7-2, 6-2 WBL) will finish the regular season at home against Defiance on Friday, with a win locking up a home playoff game.

Scoring summary:

Celina        7   0 7 6 – 20
Van Wert 12 14 6 6 – 38

8:28 1st qtr: Jake Hilleary 2 yard run (kick failed)
5:09 1st qtr: Jake Hilleary 3 yard run (kick failed)
1:59 1st qtr: Brett Schwieterman 35 yard pass to Chase Stephens (Austin Cotterman kick)
4:15 2nd qtr: Nate Place 14 yard pass to Dru Johnson (Place kick)
:26 2nd qtr: Nate Place 12 yard run ( Place kick)
8:41 3rd qtr: Cooper Jones 43 yard pass to Austin Okeley (Austin Cotterman kick)
5:31 3rd qtr: Jake Hilleary 2 yard run (kick failed)
11:49 4th qtr: Jake Hilleary 2 yard run (kick failed)
:13 4th qtr: Brett Schwieterman 10 yard pass to Chase Stephens (kick failed)

Lady Cougars to play for sectional title

Van Wert opened Division II volleyball sectional tournament action with a 25-17, 25-16, 19-25, 25-15 victory over St. Marys Memorial on Tuesday.

Adrianna Grothause led the Lady Cougars with 18 kills, followed by Katie Coplin (16) and Lainey Werts (10). Coplin also had a team high 22 assists, followed by Noelle Heffner (12). Jamison Clouse finished with 13 blocks, and Coplin and Reagan Priest each had eight. Heffner had four aces, and Priest and Grothause each had a pair of blocks.

Van Wert (16-7) will play Bryan at Defiance High School at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

WBL preview: 6-2 Van Wert at 4-4 Celina

The million dollar question is will Van Wert quarterback Nate Place play against Celina?

The Western Buckeye League’s leading rusher (122 carries, 1093 yards, 18 touchdowns, plus 1000 yards passing, eight touchdowns, two interceptions) injured his shoulder in the first half of last Friday’s 33-0 win at Bath.

Right now, there isn’t a clear cut answer as to his status for Friday night’s game at Celina, a game that would all but clinch Van Wert’s first playoff berth since 2000.


Jalen McCracken (23) and the Van Wert defense will face a potent Celina offense. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

“We obviously would love to have him, but also don’t want him to injure it worse,” Van Wert head football coach Keith Recker explained. “It will really be something that we have to take day by day and week by week, and if the doctor, trainer, and Nate think he’s able to go then he will play. If they think he isn’t able to then we will go without him.”

If Place can’t play against the Bulldogs, Owen Treece will step in. So far this season, the sophomore has completed 19 of 34 passes for 239 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Nate and Owen both throw the ball very well,” Recker said. “They are both accurate passers and have a very good understanding of where to throw the ball based on the coverage of the defense.” 

“They are different in the run game. Nate is an explosive runner who can score from anywhere on the field.  His break away speed is as good or better than anyone in our conference.”

“Owen also has good speed, but his running style is more grittier. Owen will break tackles and gain a lot of yardage after contact. Both guys are natural quarterbacks because of their work ethic and understanding of the game.  Our team will be in good hands no matter who is behind center.”

The Cougars (6-2, 4-2 WBL) have won five straight games, and not to be overlooked in that stretch is the defense, which has allowed just 111 yards rushing per game. The same unit has allowed 153 yards passing and has sacked opposing quarterbacks 35 times, with Keagon Hammons accounting for 11 of those takedowns.

“Keagon continues to step up and play well against bigger opponents,” Recker said. “He uses his speed and strength so well against typically bigger offensive lineman. He is a very tough football player and is a tireless worker.”

Joey Schaufelberger leads the team in tackles (45) while Jalen McCracken and Drew Bagley have each forced three fumbles.

Van Wert’s defense will need to be ready Friday night, because Celina averages 391 yards of total offense per game, including 280 rushing. Kyle Zizleman has rushed for 750 yards and seven touchdowns, while quarterback Brett Schwieterman for 570 yards and four touchdowns. Schwieterman has also competed 72 of 114 passes for 850 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

“Celina is a very capable offensive team,” Recker said. “They have a very good quarterback who has played a ton of football them over the past few years. He really hurt us last year through the air and on the ground. He has the ability to do both very well. Their running is a very good runner and is hard to take down when they get him moving into the line of scrimmage quickly.”

“They run some option which really challenges us defensively to make sure we are taking care of our assignment. We have to do a great job tackling because with the option there will be one on one match ups that we have to win in space.”

Meanwhile, Celina head coach Brennan Bader has concerns about Van Wert and the success the Cougars have enjoyed this season.

“I think Van Wert is extremely solid on both sides of the ball and they are a very talented team,” Bader said. “They are extremely physical and very well coached. Overall it appears they have returned a lot of experienced players this season which makes them very dangerous.”

“Offensively they have an outstanding athlete at quarterback who is a great runner and has the ability to hurt you in the air,” Bader continued. “They possess several weapons on the perimeter as well. Their offensive line has been very impressive too. They have some size up front, especially at the tackle positions.”

“We must slow down their running attack and force them into more obvious passing situations. Offensively for us we just need to finish drives and limit the small mistakes that have put us behind the chains.”

Celina (4-4, 3-4 WBL) has lost three straight, including back-to-back games against No. 13 Wapakoneta and No. 1 St. Marys Memorial.

Friday’s Van Wert at Celina game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.

Soccer sectionals: L’view wins, VW loses

Lincolnview 1 Miller City 0

Lincolnview advanced to the Division III sectional finals with a 1-0 victory at Miller City on Monday.

Clayton Leeth scored the lone goal for the Lancers, with an assist provided by Blaike Kerner.

Lincolnview will face No. 1 seed Bluffton for the sectional title at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

St. Marys Memorial 5 Van Wert 0

Van Wert’s soccer season came to an end with a 5-0 loss at No. 3 seed St. Marys Memorial on Monday.

The Cougars finished 2-13-1.

Bath 9 Van Wert 1 (girls)

The Lady Cougars (1-13-2) fell to Bath 9-1 in the Division II sectional semifinals at Bath on Monday.

Elizabeth Tomlinson scored Van Wert’s lone goal in the season finale for the Lady Cougars.

Phillips wins WBL; Cougar boys finish 2nd

CELINA — Van Wert’s Caylee Phillips won her fourth individual title of the season at the Western Buckeye League Cross Country Championships at Wright State Lake Campus in Celina on Saturday.

On the boys side, Gage Chiles, Jacob Wasson and Hunter Sherer finished in the top 10 to lead Van Wert to a second place team finish behind state ranked Defiance. It was the fourth consecutive runner up finish for the Cougars.


Van Wert’s 2018 All-WBL cross country runners (left to right): Rachel Spath, Jacob Wasson, Holden Reichert, Hunter Sherer, Gage Chiles and Caylee Phillips. Photo submitted

Phillips finished with a time of 19:17, which was 30 seconds faster than the next runner.

Rachel Spath was Van Wert’s second finisher, placing ninth with a time of 21:23. Both Phillips and Spath earned First-Team All-WBL honors. Ali Gemmer (24th, 22:32),  Kirsten Dunning (37th, 23:55), and Caton Williamson (49th, 24:30) rounded out the team’s top five scoring. Shayna Dull ( 55th, 25:04) and Hannah Kraner (72nd, 27:03) were the team’s sixth and seventh finishers.

“Our girls really learned something about themselves today,” Van Wert head coach Ryan Holliday said. “They believed what kind of team they could be, and today they saw it.”

“Finishing in sixth, just three points out of third, is very bittersweet. It means that we put ourselves in the conversation for top three, but it keeps us hungry headed into next week.”

Chiles and Wasson led the charge for Van Wert with third and fourth place finishes, respectively. Chiles set a season personal record with a 17:23 finish while Wasson ran a very respectable 17:25. Hunter Sherer ran a solid race as the team’s thirrd finisher, placing 10th overall while running a 17:50. Chiles, Wasson, and Sherer all earned First-Team All-WBL honors for their efforts.

Holden Reichert (22nd, 18:24) earned Honorable Mention All-WBL honors, while Gage Wannemacher rounded out scoring for the Cougars by placing 29th with a 18:43.  Noah Carter (32nd, 18:43) and Jacob Sealscott (39th, 18:48) also ran solid races as the team’s 6th and 7th finishers.

“Today was the best collective race of the season for our guys,” Holliday said. “It was great to get Holden back in the lineup after some time off with an injury.”

“I think we were able to see today what we have. We took a big step today, and I’m excited to see these guys take their next step next weekend at the district meet,”

Both teams will compete at the Division II districts in Ottawa on Saturday.

Final standings


1 – Defiance (26)
2 – Van Wert (67)
3 – Shawnee (71)
4-  Ottawa-Glandorf (134)
5 – St. Marys Memorial (152)
6 – Celina (155)
7 – Wapakoneta (158)
8 – Elida (210)
9 – Bath (234)
10 – Kenton (260)


1 – Defiance (45)
2 – Shawnee (95)
3 – Wapakoneta (111)
T-4 Kenton (112)
T-4 St. Marys Memorial (112)
6 – Van Wert (114)
7 – Celina (124)
8 – Bath (191)
9 – Ottawa-Glandorf (225)