After a season opening victory over Bryan, it hasn’t been easy for Van Wert.
The Cougars (1-2, 0-2 WBL) have played two top-five teams (Wapakoneta, No. 5 in Division III and St. Marys, No. 1 in Division IV), and will play Ottawa-Glandorf (2-1, 1-1 WBL) on Friday, a team currently ranked No. 19 in Division V.
The Titans like to run the ball, but not as much as Van Wert’s previous two opponents.
Through three games, Drew Bagley is Van Wert’s leading receiver. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent
“Ottawa-Glandorf is similar to the other two in that they like to run the ball, although O-G is 66 percent run on the year, where St. Marys and Wapakoneta were closer to 80-90 percent run,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker explained. “O-G will use more spread sets on offense which will allow us to use our athleticism in space much more. O-G, though, does have a very big offensive line and will still run downhill with isolation plays, so we will have to be very good with staying in our rush lanes against the pass because of the quarterback’s ability to scramble as well.”
Ottawa-Glandorf’s signal caller, 6-3, 205 pound junior Jeremy Leopold has rushed 38 times for 172 yards and a touchdown, while completing 25 of 45 passes for 254 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. 5-8, 175 senior running back Jasper Scarberry has carried 54 times for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Jarrod Beach, a 5-10, 165 pound junior is the team’s leading receiver in terms of receptions, with 10 for 53 yards. As a team, the Titans are averaging 264 yards per game, while allowing just 211 yards per contest, including just 67 through the air.
“Defensively they have a very big defensive front and they have the ability to give multiple looks up front, which can be confusing at times,” Recker said. “We need to do a great job identifying their front and blocking our assignment so we don’t leave unblocked defenders, resulting in lost yardage and leaving us with undesirable down and distances.”
“The other challenge is stopping their run game. They average 250 pounds on their offensive line, so we need to be able to hold our own on the line of scrimmage.”
Ottawa-Glandorf head coach Ken Schriner said he’s looking for more consistency out of his offense, but he agreed with Recker’s thoughts about his own defense.
“Our defense has been good up front at stopping the run,” Schriner said.
The longtime coach also shared his concerns about Van Wert, noting his team hasn’t played a team like the Cougars this season.
“Van Wert is athletic and quick,” Schriner stated. “They have a lot of experience in their seniors that have played over past few years. Their veterans show well on film. We haven’t faced a team that is balanced passing and running the ball. I think Van Wert has that balance.”
“We need to get off to a fast start and eliminate the mistakes we’ve made in our previous three games.”
The Cougars are averaging 263 yards of total offense per game – 141 rushing and 122 passing. Nate Place has completed 24 of 62 passes for 256 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, while Owen Treece has connected on 9 of 19 passes for 109 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Place has rushed 36 times for 246 yards and three touchdowns, while Drew Bagley is the team’s leading receiver with 18 catches for 125 yards.
Defensively, Van Wert allows 283 yards per game, including 200 on the ground.
With two league losses, the Cougars are most likely out of the WBL title race, but Recker said his team has much to play for, starting with Friday night’s game.
“There is not a team left on our schedule that we can’t compete with,” Recker said. “If we take care of our business each week, we can look back on this rough start as the time that made us tougher and pushed our team to be better. We know there is a lot of season left and we can accomplish some great things still.”
Friday’s Van Wert at Ottawa-Glandorf game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.