It’s a rematch that has football fans in Van Wert buzzing.
The Cougars (9-2) will face WBL co-champion St. Marys Memorial (10-1) at Lima Spartan Stadium on Saturday, and the winner will advance to the Division IV, Region 14 championship game against Clear Fork or Clearview.
Van Wert and St. Marys dispatched their first round opponents, with the Roughriders defeating Pepper Pike Orange 48-13, and the Cougars topping Huron 33-14.
Isaiah Bretz (20), Joey Schaufelberger (81) and Van Wert’s defense will need to be ready for the powerful running game of St. Marys. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent
However, Van Wert trailed 14-6 early in the second quarter before scoring the next 27 points, including 19 before halftime.
“It was good for us to be in that position, because it had been a while since we’ve trailed in the second quarter,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “I was glad to see us continue to play with great confidence. I think we made some good adjustments between the first and second quarter, and most importantly our guys executed those adjustments.”
It’s no secret what the Roughriders like to do offensively. During the regular season, St. Marys led the WBL in rushing, averaging 306 yards per game. Sean Perry finished as the second leading rusher in the league, with 139 carries for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns.
In the win over Orange, Perry scored three times – a 76 yard kickoff return to open the game, plus touchdown runs of 25 and 34 yards.
The Roughriders don’t pass often but when they do, they’re remarkably effective. Quarterback Braeden Dunlap completed 24 of his 46 regular season passes for 453 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception.
“St. Marys will give us multiple formations offensively and will want to run the ball as much as possible,” Recker said. “They’ve added some empty formations into their offensive package this year which really causes you to be aware defensively so we can get aligned to everything.”
When the two teams met in Week No. 3, the Roughriders rushed for 260 yards, with Dunlap running for two scores and throwing for another. Nate Place and Owen Treece combined to go 13 of 34 for 84 yards and two interceptions. Place had 53 yard rushing and Treece had 53 yards receiving.
“The biggest difference I believe is how we are playing offensively,” Recker said of the Cougars in Week No. 12. “ We have really done a good job at finding what we are good at and establishing an identity with it.”
“We were still searching for that the first couple weeks of the season. We are much better in ball security and we are a much better blocking team, and we are a much more confident team this time around as well.”
Through 11 games, Place has completed 141 of 210 passes for 1,512 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, while rushing for 1,531 yards and 25 touchdowns on 170 carries. Jake Hilleary has 218 carries for 1,164 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Cougars are allowing just 118 yards per game rushing and 149 yards per game passing.
St. Marys head coach Doug Frye did not respond to a request for comment.
Saturday’s Van Wert-St. Marys Memorial game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.