Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
After last week’s game against Wapakoneta and this Friday’s game against defending Western Buckeye League champion St. Marys, that may be the best way to describe the situation for the Van Wert Cougars.
The “ground and pound” Roughriders have posted two impressive wins – 35-7 over Sidney and 49-6 over Ottawa-Glandorf, a score that caused plenty of people to sit up and take notice, including Van Wert head coach Keith Recker.
Butch Eutsler and the Van Wert defense will face another physical opponent this Friday. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent
“For the most part they are the St. Marys that we are all accustomed to, a very physical Wing-T team that runs the ball very well,” Recker explained. “They have added some no running back sets this year, which increases the difficulty of defending them.”
Through two games, running back Sean Perry has 35 carries for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while quarterback Braeden Dunlap has 29 carries for 82 yards a three touchdowns.
The Roughriders threw just 28 passes during the 2017 regular season, but Dunlap has tossed 11 so far, completing eight for 134 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Carter Ballweg is the team’s leading receiver with three catches for 82 yards and two scores.
On defense, St. Marys is allowing just 203 total yards per game and the Roughriders have intercepted six passes and recovered two fumbles. Linebacker Eddie Fowler is the team’s leading tackler (25).
“They have very good athletes on both sides of the ball,” Recker said. “Defensively, they are sound in that they work very hard to not give up the big play and make you drive the ball down the field.”
Recker believes this game will be at least as physical as last week’s game, which presents some challenges.
“During the practice week we have to find the balance of making sure our guys are prepared but also make sure they are healthy and ready for the game,” Recker said. “The nice thing is we were able to study what went wrong when defending Wapakoneta and that is what we are working on this week. We have to do a much better job of defeating blocks and not giving up big plays through the pass game.”
Meanwhile, Recker’s counterpart, St. Marys head coach Doug Frye said he’s looking for improvement from his team, and he complimented the Cougars.
“We really need a lot of work at this point,” Frye stated. “We have been fortunate to play at home early, but we know it will be a lot tougher on the road.”
“Van Wert is very well coached and has many returning players, the Roughrider coach added. “Van Wert has a very good football team.”
Quarterback Nate Place has completed 26 of 41 passes, with no touchdowns or interceptions, while Owen Treece has completed 4 of 6 passes for 89 yards, two touchdowns (both to Place) and two interceptions.
Tight end Drew Bagley is Van Wert’s leading receiver, with 15 catches for 114 yards.
Treece is the team’s leading tackler with 14, followed by Butch Eutsler (13), Jalen McCracken (11) and Joey Schaufelberger (10).
Against a team like St. Marys, Recker knows the margin for error is razor thin.
“We must do a much better job defensively, especially linebackers and defensive line, of getting off blocks and attacking the gaps where they want to run the ball,” Recker said. “On offense, we need to gain positive yardage on first down and limit penalties. St. Marys is a good offensive football team, so we know we are going to have to score points to win this game.”
Friday’s St. Marys at Van Wert game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.