After playing three consecutive games against state-ranked teams, another big challenge awaits the Van Wert Cougars during homecoming week.
Despite a 1-3 (0-3 WBL) record, the Shawnee Indians are a team that can cause problems for any opponent, as evidenced by last week’s game against St. Marys. The Indians pulled to within one, 27-26 with 14 seconds left, but the winning two point try by quarterback Johnny Caprella came up a yard short.
Joey Schaufelberger (20), Parker Conrad (17), Owen Treece (7) and the rest of Van Wert’s defense will need to contain Shawnee quarterback Johnny Caprella. Bob Barnes photo
So far this season, Caprella, a Division I college prospect, has completed 38 of 63 passes for 455 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and has rushed for 408 yards and six touchdowns on 69 carries.
While Caprella gets the attention and the headlines, Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said the Indians are far from being a one man team.
“He (Caprella) is a very good athlete and can hurt you passing the ball as well as his running ability,” Recker said. “They also have a running back/free safety, Peyton Wilson, who is very good and seems like he’s been playing for 10 years. Defensively the challenge for us will be aligning to all of their formations and recognizing unbalanced formations.”
“We need to get aligned quickly and make sure we don’t get caught up in misdirection,” Recker continued. “We need to keep Caprella contained and stay in our rush lanes.”
The Cougars evened their overall record at 2-2 (1-2 WBL) with last week’s wild 40-34 overtime victory at Ottawa-Glandorf.
“It is quite interesting that last week’s theme was ‘Keeping Your Composure’,” Recker said. “After all four practices last week we talked about how to keep your composure and the importance of it. Little did we know we would put that into practice Friday night. Our players did a good job keeping their composure and giving everything they had to get the win.”
The Cougars managed to pierce O-G’s stingy defense for 427 yards, including 275 on the ground. Jake Hilleary finished with 30 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime. Nate Place had 18 carries for 94 yards and a score and completed 17 of 25 passes for 152 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Two of his scoring passes went to Tanner Barnhart, who finished with three receptions for 46 yards. Drew Bagley had 10 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Recker said a similar team effort will be needed Friday night against Shawnee.
“Offensively, we need to win the battle up front, just like any week,” Recker stated. “They do a good job with being sound on defense and not beating themselves. They played well defensively against St. Marys, who can obviously run the ball well.”
Recker went on to say homecoming is a fun week and has come at a good time for the Cougars.
“We just had a hard fought, physical, emotional win and it would be easy to be flat this week,” Recker explained. “With all the activities and excitement that surrounds homecoming week (parade, pep rally, powderpuff, dance, theme days) our guys will be excited and ready to get a win for all the alums and fans that will be cheering for us on Friday.”
Shawnee head coach Jerry Cooper did not return a request for comment.
Friday’s Shawnee at Van Wert game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.