Football preview: Van Wert at Wapak

It doesn’t get much more difficult in terms of a league opener for Van Wert.

The Cougars (1-0) will begin Western Buckeye League play at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field on Friday, a site where the hosts are 32-4 in WBL league games over the last eight seasons, with two of those league losses coming last season.

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Butch Eutsler (51) Garrett Black (70) Jalen McCracken (23), Drew Bagley (87) will need to stop Wapak’s powerful rushing attack. Jerry Mason photo

A look back shows Van Wert hasn’t won at Wapakoneta since 2004 (a 12-0 victory), but the Cougars did defeat the Redskins at Eggerss Stadium last season, 26-20.

Fresh off a 34-7 season opening win over Bryan, Van Wert head coach Keith Recker knows Friday night will present a big challenge.

“Offensively, Wapakoneta (1-0) has a big offensive line and a very good running back in Evan Kaeck (17 carries 106 yards, one touchdown in a 28-14 win over Bellefontaine),” Recker said of the Redskins. “They were 90 percent run in their first game with only throwing four passes. We have to be able to stop the run in order to stop Wapak.”

In addition to Kaeck’s yardage, quarterback Brady Erb carried ran 15 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to completing two passes for 43 yards.

On the other side of the ball, the Redskins can be considered more than solid.

“Defensively, they are what coach (Travis) Moyer wants – a 4-3 team that plays their responsibilities very well. You know where they will line up, the challenge is being better than the guys they have across from you. The same guy (Kaeck) plays linebacker and is a physical presence on the field.”

Moyer expressed concerns about Van Wert, and the challenges the Cougars will present on defense, as well as the team’s big play ability.

“Offensively, Van Wert has the ability to spread you out,” Moyer stated. “Both quarterbacks – Nate Place and Owen Treece — have dual threat ability.”

“Defensively, Van Wert is physical upfront and athletic on the back end.”

Both coaches were asked to share their thoughts on the keys to victory during Friday’s game.

“We need to take care of the ball, we need to win the line of scrimmage, we need to tackle well in space and we need to play well on special teams,” Moyer said.

“We must do a great job on first down defensively,” Recker explained. “If we can get them into second and long or third and long, they will be forced to throw more than they may be comfortable with.”

“We also must do a better job offensively of converting third downs,” Recker added. “We were 29 percent on converting third downs on offense last week, and we would like that number to be double that.”

Friday’s Van Wert at Wapakoneta game can be heard live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.