Battle of the Cats: Van Wert tops Huron

Nate Place rushed for four touchdowns and passed for another to lead Van Wert past Huron 33-14 in Division IV, Region 14 quarterfinal action at Eggerss Stadium on Saturday.

The victory set up a rematch against Western Buckeye League foe St. Marys Memorial in the regional semifinals this Saturday. The two teams met in Week No. 4, with the Roughriders claiming a 38-6 win.

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Nate Place (10) scores one of his four rushing touchdowns against Huron. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

Place’s second and third touchdowns were game changers. Huron had taken a 14-6 lead on a six yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Sterett to Casey Scroggins with 11:17 left in the second quarter. It appeared the Tigers had seized momentum, but Place sprinted 56 yards for a score and added a two point conversion run to tie the game 14-14.

On the ensuing possession, Huron elected to go for it on fourth and one at the 50, but Sterett mishandled the snap from center then slipped on the muddy turf for no gain. One play later, Place raced 50 yards for a touchdown, and TJ Reynolds kicked the PAT to give the Cougars a 21-14 lead.

“That was big,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “He (Place) can score from anywhere on the field and he showed it again tonight. He’s a really special player and he gives our guys a lot of confidence.”

“Give credit to our offensive line as well, just because of how they blocked and opened things up.”

Place finished the game with 18 carries for 203 yards, and completed 14 of 18 passes for 150 yards. Jake Hilleary complimented Van Wert’s offensive attack with 20 carries for 112 yards.

Huron came back with a nine play drive that ended with a missed 30 yard field goal attempt, giving Van Wert the ball at the Cougar 20 with 3:52 left until halftime. Place engineered an 11 play, 3:04 drive that ended with a 13 yard touchdown pass to a leaping Owen Treece in the back of the end zone that gave the Cougars a 27-14 lead. Treece ended the game with six receptions for 61 yards.

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Owen Treece (7) closes in on Huron running back Joey Brown. Bob Barnes photo

“To get a score like that right before halftime was huge,” Recker said. “From there, we were able to go in and make a couple of adjustments and move some things around.”

Neither team scored in the third quarter, although Huron opened the second half with a 16 play drive, only to be stopped on downs by Van Wert’s defense at the Cougar 23.

The Cougars put together a 14 play drive, which included a 38 yard pass from Place to Tanner Barnhart and a pass interference call at the goal line, which set up a one yard touchdown run by Place to extend the lead to 33-14 with 11:13 left in the game.

The Tigers put together a pair of promising drives after that, but Treece squelched the first one with an interception at the Van Wert two yard line with 8:44 left, then later, the Cougars held on downs deep in Van Wert territory.

“As the field shrunk we tightened up and came up with some opportunistic plays to get the ball back,” Recker said of his defensive unit.

Van Wert opened the game with 12 play, 72 yard drive that ended with a four yard touchdown run by Place, but Huron responded with a 12 yard touchdown pass from Sterett to Jimmy Harkelroad and an extra point by Luke Wood for a 7-6 lead. Sterett passed for 184 yards and rushed for 100 yards on 19 carries.

Van Wert will play St. Marys Memorial at Lima Spartan Stadium at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Scoring summary

Van Wert 6 21 0 6 – 33
Huron      7   7 0 0 – 14

8:35 1st qtr: Nate Place 4 yard run (kick blocked)
5:14 1st qtr: Drew Sterett 12 yard pass to Jimmy Harkelroad (Luke Wood kick)
11:17 2nd qtr: Drew Sterett six yard touchdown pass to Casey Scroggins (Luke Wood kick)
10:54 2nd qtr: Nate Place 56 yard run (Place run)
6:46 2nd qtr: Nate Place 50 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)
0:48 2nd qtr: Nate Place 13 yard pass to Owen Treece (kick blocked)
11:13 4th qtr: Nate Place 1 yard run (kick no good)