Van Wert used a stifling defense and big plays on offense to open the 2018 high school football season with a 34-7 win over visiting Bryan on Friday.
The defense sacked Bryan quarterback Nate Miller 11 times and held the Golden Bears to just 105 yards of total offense, including just five on the ground. Keegan Hammons, Hayden Maples, Parker Conrad, Butch Eutsler, Joey Schaufelberger and Parker Conrad combined for the 11 sacks, and the defense recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass.
“Overall as a defense I thought we flew to the ball well, we didn’t miss assignments – we gave up some things but they weren’t because of missed assignments,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “It was really good to see.”
Meanwhile, Van Wert’s offense racked up 387 yards of total offense, including 242 through the air. Starting quarterback Nate Place rushed 65 yards on 10 carries, caught two passes for 77 yards and completed 13 of 19 passes for 153 yards, while backup quarterback Owen Treece completed all three of his passes for 89 yards, plus two touchdown passes to Place.
After a scoreless first quarter and a short Bryan punt, the Cougars scored on the opening play of the second stanza, when Treece fired a 33 yard touchdown strike to Place, who lined up as a wide receiver. The extra point was no good, and Van Wert led 6-0.
After forcing the Golden Bears into a quick three and out, the Cougars took over on their own 47 and marched 53 yards in just four plays in less than 90 seconds. Treece completed a seven yard pass to Tanner Barnhart, then Place found Drew Bagley on back to back plays for three and seven yards. Place then finished the drive on a perfectly run option keeper for 33 yards to increase the lead to 12-0.
Van Wert threatened again later in the quarter but turned the ball over on downs. However, a fumble by the Golden Bears gave the Cougars the ball at the eight yard line, and two plays later, Jake Hilleary plowed in from two yards out. A pass interference penalty on the two point attempt gave Van Wert a second chance, which was made good when Hilleary punched it in to make it 20-0 with 2:54 left until halftime. The Golden Bears put together a solid drive after that, but Barnhart ended it with an interception at the Van Wert five yard line 24 seconds before halftime.
After an exchange of punts in the third quarter, Bryan put together an eight play, 69 yard drive that was capped off by Miller’s five yard touchdown run, followed by the extra point by Chandler Jackson.
The Cougars responded with six play, 67 yard drive that took less than 2:30. Place hit Bagley for 12 yards on third and 10, then three plays later, Treece stepped in at quarterback and hit Place for a 44 yard score with :49 second left in the quarter. The extra point by TJ Reynolds gave Van Wert a 27-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“He (Place) is a big playmaker and we weren’t getting him going in the run game like we were hoping,” Recker said. “If we can get two or three 40-plus yard gains then we feel pretty good, and that’s what we were able to get two times, one on the post and the other on the fade.”
Recker also said the Cougars will continue to utilize both Place and Treece at quarterback as the season moves forward.
“We probably have two of better quarterbacks as far as a combo in the league,” Recker stated. “It’s not an issue to put Owen back there anytime, and when we can put Nate out at receiver, that helps even more.”
The final touchdown of the game came on fourth down with 4:39 left, when Bagley took the punt snap and raced 48 yards down the right sideline for the score.
Bagley finished the game with 10 catches for 90 yards, plus the 48 yard run. Barnhart had four receptions for 30 yards.
Van Wert (1-0) will open Western Buckeye League play at Wapakoneta on Friday.
Van Wert 0 20 7 7 – 34
Bryan 0 0 7 0 – 7
11:52 2nd qtr: Owen Treece 33 yard pass to Nate Place (kick no good)
8:38 2nd qtr: Nate Place 33 yard run (kick no good)
2:54 2nd qtr: Jake Hilleary 2 yard run (Hilleary run)
3:24 3rd qtr: Nate Milller 5 yard run (Chandler Jackson kick)
0:49 3rd qtr: Owen Treece 44 yard pass to Nate Place (TJ Reynolds kick)
4:39 4th qtr: Drew Bagley 48 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)