Place, ‘D’ lead VW Cougars past Shawnee


Nate Place accounted for over 300 yards of offense and Van Wert’s defense kept Shawnee in check all night in a 39-6 homecoming win at Eggerss Stadium on Friday.

Place finished with 208 yards rushing and three touchdowns on just 15 carries, and completed 13 of 18 passes for 111 yards and another score. Meanwhile, Van Wert’s defense held the Indians to just 184total yards on the night. Highly regarded quarterback Johnny Caprella had 56 yards rushing on 17 carries and completed just 7 of 22 passes for 83 yards.

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Van Wert quarterback Nate Place (10) gashed Shawnee’s defense for over 300 total yards. Bob Barnes photo

“He’s such a good player for us,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said of Place. “He just understands the game so well and our guys have so much confidence in him.”

Place opened the scoring by breaking two tackles in the secondary and racing 63 yards to the end zone with seven minutes left in the opening quarter. TJ Reynolds added the PAT to give Van Wert a 7-0 lead.

The Cougars (3-2, 2-2 WBL) essentially secured the win with a pair of scores late in the second quarter. After forcing the Indians to punt from deep in their own territory, Owen Treece returned the kick 10 yards to the Shawnee 27. From there, Place capped a four play drive with a 12 yard touchdown run with 2:03 left until half.

The real backbreaker came after that, when Van Wert’s defense forced Shawnee (1-4, 0-4 WBL) to turn the ball over on downs at the Cougar 48. With 27 seconds left until halftime, Place completed four straight passes – one to Tanner Barnhart for eight yards, one to Dru Johnson for 10 yards, another to Barnhart for 14 yards, before finding Johnson for a 20 yard score to increase the lead to 19-0 with three seconds left until halftime.

“Getting that score right before half was not only big on the scoreboard, but for confidence,” Recker said. “If we went in 13-0, they’d have the ball with Johnny Caprella back there, and who knows what happens.”

Isaiah Bretz (81) and his defensive teammates pressured Shawnee quarterback Johnny Caprella all night. Bob Barnes photo

The Indians did put together a nine play drive to open the second half, but it ended with a sack and punt from Van Wert’s 40. It took the Cougars just four plays to score after that. Place ran for nine, then completed a six yard pass to Treece. Jake Hilleary plowed for nine yards before Place sprinted 60 yards to the end zone to give Van Wert a 26-0 lead.

“Our guys did a great job of controlling the game and not giving Shawnee a chance to get back in it,” Recker said.

After forcing Caprella into three straight incompletions, the Cougars took over at the 4:01 mark of the third quarter and marched 70 yards in 15 plays. Hilleary, who had eight carries for 28 yards on the drive capped it with a two yard scoring run to increase the margin to 33-0 with 9:15 left in the game. The junior running back finished the game with 21 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Shawnee’s only score came on the ensuing drive. After a 38 yard completion by Caprella, Will Roberson busted in from two yards out to make it 33-6 with 7:14 left.

The Cougars answered with a 10 play, 55 yard drive that ended with a two yard scoring run by Hilleary.

Recker praised his defense for containing and pressuring Caprella throughout the game.

Joey Schaufelberger and Drew Bagley were the guys that had to push the contain and keep Johnny in the pocket,” Recker explained. “Isaiah Bretz did a really good job at outside linebacker, and our secondary was solid throughout with Jalen McCracken, Owen Treece and Nate Place.”

The Cougars will travel Kenton on Friday night.

Scoring summary:

Van Wert 7 12 7 13 – 39
Shawnee 0   0 6   0 –   6

7:00 1st qtr: Nate Place 63 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)
2:13 2nd qtr: Nate Place 12 yard run (kick failed)
0:03 2nd qtr: Nate Place 20 yard pass to Dru Johnson (kick failed)
4:37 3rd qtr: Nate Place 60 yard run (TJ Reynolds kick)
9:15 4th qtr: Jake Hilleary 2 yard run (Clayton Profitt kick)
7:04 4th qtr: Will Roberson 2 yard run (run failed)
2:32 4th qtr: Jake Hilleary 1 yard run (kick failed)