WBL preview: Van Wert at Bath Wildcats

The Van Wert Express rolls on.

The Cougars (5-2, 4-2 WBL) have won four straight and have their eyes set on a fifth consecutive victory at Bath (0-7, 0-6) on Friday night.

After back to back early season losses to then fifth-ranked Wapakoneta and No. 1 St. Marys Memorial, Van Wert has piled up yards and points at an eye-popping pace. After three games, the Cougars averaged 17 points while allowing 29 per game. Since then, the team is averaging 48 points per game and giving up just 22.

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Drew Bagley leads the Cougars with 40 receptions through seven games. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

Along the way, Nate Place has become the Western Buckeye League’s leading rusher (110 carries, 991 yards, 16 touchdowns), and the senior quarterback should be able to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing and passing (98 of 147, 966 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions) on Friday. Drew Bagley remains the WBL’s second leading receiver in terms of receptions (40 for 345 yard, one touchdown).

On the other side of the ball, the Cougars have been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, holding them to a 47 percent completion percentage, while averaging more than three sacks and numerous quarterback hurries per game.

When you take into account that many of the assistants on Van Wert’s coaching staff are new this season, it makes the team’s accomplishments even more impressive.

“We have two less coaches than last year so there is a lot asked of these guys,” head coach Keith Recker said. “Our coaches (Cole Harting, quarterbacks; Steve Sealscott, defensive backs; Josiah Poletta, defensive line; Adam Tussing, running backs, and Harry Florence, wide receivers) have done a great job not only making sure that they players are coached well, motivated, and properly prepared for each opponent.”

“They have all had to take on extra tasks within the game week and have done so willingly. They all put in a lot of time with practice, workouts, and film study. We also get a lot of help from our middle school staff on Friday nights…Charlie Witten, Jeff Kallas, Seth Baer, and Chris Heath.”

Recker also noted that fan support has been a big factor in the team’s success this season.

“Having support on Friday nights is so important,” Recker said. “When things are going well and our crowd is loud and into the game, it helps us so much. Our players feed off the energy that the crowd gives us. The Catpack and “Adult Catpack” cannot be thanked enough for their support.”

Given Van Wert’s recent play and the fact that Bath is struggling, Friday’s game appears to be a mismatch, but Recker isn’t taking the Wildcats lightly.

“Bath is fifth in the league in total defense,” Recker explained. “They create some problems for opposing offenses because they will switch between a three man front, four man front, and five man front while also moving linebackers around. This could make it difficult to make sure we are blocking our correct assignment on run plays.”

“Our offensive line will need to be disciplined and do a great job communicating to make sure we get everyone blocked that we can.”

Bath allows 42 points, 223 yards per game rushing and just 97 passing per game.

Offensively, the Wildcats average 11 points and 159 yards of offense per game, including 96 rushing and 63 passing. Quarterback Cyrus Burden has completed 47 of 93 passes for 389 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Another win by Van Wert would bring the Cougars closer to a playoff berth, but Recker isn’t ready to discuss the postseason, or start preparing for a potential Week No. 11 opponent just yet.

“I’m not sure at what point that might happen, but I know we aren’t there yet,” Recker said. “After reviewing the Elida film, we need to continue to get better.”

“There were multiple instances of guys not communicating or not taking care of their assignment correctly. We just need to continue to change our best every day and take care of the day that is ahead of us.”

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