Nate Place had five rushing touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass – all in the first half – as the Cougars delighted fans with a 52-14 win over Elida at Eggerss Stadium on Friday.
Place finished with 11 carries for 187 yards and was 13 of 19 for 218 yards, as Van Wert piled up 639 yards of total offense while holding Elida’s potent offense to just 235 yards.
Nate Place runs for one of his five first half touchdowns against Elida. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent
The Bulldogs (2-5, 1-5 WBL) moved downfield quickly after receiving the opening kickoff, reeling off five plays before Owen Treece ended the drive by intercepting quarterback Evan Unruh at the Cougar six yard line.
Van Wert (5-2, 4-2 WBL) then drove 94 yards in six plays and scored on a 29 yard touchdown run by Nate Place. TJ Reynolds booted the first of four extra points to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter.
“Our defense forcing a turnover on the first possession when it looked like they would open with a score, then our offensive putting a nice long touchdown drive together really set the tone for the game,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said.
The Cougars added two more touchdowns late in the first quarter, one on a 13 yard pass from Place to Tanner Barnhart at the 2:44 mark and the other on a 30 yard run by Place that increased the lead to 20-0.
Elida got on the board when Unruh hit Arzaiah Little on a quick slant, which turned into a 58 yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the quarter.
However, Van Wert needed just four plays to respond, with the fourth being a 49 yard touchdown run by Place at the 11:52 mark of the second quarter.
The senior quarterback found pay dirt again with a 25 yard touchdown run with 9:30 remaining in the quarter, then two plays after a 64 yard pass to Drew Bagley, Place scored on a five yard run with 7:47 left until halftime.
Jake Hilleary pushed Van Wert’s lead to 46-7 with a three yard touchdown run with 3:45 left until halftime. Hilleary finished the game with 21 carries for 128 yards.
“We continue to run the ball well with the ability to mix in the pass, and we are so efficient offensively gaining positive yardage,” Recker said. “Defensively we gave up some yards but overall we did a good job. We executed our coverage responsibility very well so their athletes couldn’t get open.”
Surehanded Tanner Barnhart makes one of his five receptions against the Bulldogs. Bob Barnes photo
The second half was played with a rolling clock, and the Cougars managed to score once more. Owen Treece hit a wide open Dru Johnson with a 21 yard touchdown pass with 2:30 left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 52-7.
Treece was 3 of 4 passing for 45 yards, had four receptions for 48 yards and finished with three carries for 10 yards. Barnhart had five receptions for 68 yards for Van Wert, Johnson had five catches for 65 yards and Bagley had a pair of receptions for 68 yards.
Elida scored the final touchdown of the game on a seven yard touchdown pass from Evan Unruh to Devon Barrnett with 9:42 in the fourth quarter. Unruh, who was under constant pressure all night, was 8 of 23 for 141 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Van Wert, winners of four straight, inched closer to a playoff spot in Division IV, Region 14. The Cougars will travel to winless Bath on Friday.
Van Wert 20 26 7 0 – 52
Elida 7 0 7 0 – 14
7:12 1st qtr: Nate Place 29 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)
2:44 1st qtr: Nate Place 13 yard pass to Tanner Barnhart (TJ Reynolds kick)
0:52 1st qtr: Nate Place 30 yard run (kick failed)
0:20 1st qtr: Evan Unruh 58 yard pass to Arzaiah Little (Noah Adcock kick)
11:52 2nd qtr: Nate Place 49 yard run (kick failed)
9:30 2nd qtr: Nate Place 25 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)
7:47 2nd qtr: Nate Place 5 yard run (pass failed)
3:45 2nd qtr: Jake Hilleary 3 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)
2:30 3rd qtr: Owen Treece 21 yard pass to Dru Johnson (kick failed)
9:42 4th qtr: Evan Unruh 7 yard pass to Devon Barnett (Noah Adcock kick)