The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jun. 4, 2020

Cougars take Wapak down to the wire

DAVE MOSIER/independent sports

It’s been an “almost” season for the Van Wert Cougars. The Cougars’ five losses this year have all been by a touchdown or less, with two past losses by a single point after Van Wert led for most of those games.

But the Cougars final “almost” win was by far the biggest, as Van Wert’s 21-20 loss to Wapakoneta came down to literally inches — a two-point conversion attempt falling short by less than a foot with 69 seconds left in the game. It was the nearest the unbeaten Redskins have come to losing all season, with Wapak’s previous closest margin of victory 10 points against Bath.

Cougar quarterback Colin Smith (8) breaks into the open for a gainer against Wapakoneta on Friday. Van Wert felt a point short, 21-20, to the unbeaten Redskins. (Jan Dunlap/Van Wert independent)
Cougar quarterback Colin Smith (8) breaks into the open for a gainer against Wapakoneta on Friday. Van Wert felt a point short, 21-20, to the unbeaten Redskins. (Jan Dunlap/Van Wert independent)

Unlike Wapak (10-0 overall, 9-0 WBL), it has been a heartbreaking season for a senior-laden and talented Van Wert squad, now 5-5 overall and 4-5 in the Western Buckeye League. If a couple of breaks would have gone their way, the Cougars’ record could be 10-0, or at least 8-2.

Van Wert again showed its potential Friday night, dominating Wapak statistically, both offensively and defensively. The Cougs outgained the Redskins 400 yards to 287, including a 198-yard rushing performance by quarterback Colin Smith. Van Wert had 21 first downs, to just 14 for Wapak.

The Cougars outrushed Wapakoneta 265-183, while Van Wert also had more passing yards, 135 to 104, than the Redskins.

The Cougars sent a message to Wapak on the first play from scrimmage, when Smith broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown ramble. Gavin Gardner kicked the point-after and Van Wert was up 7-0 with 11:41 remaining in the quarter.

The lead lasted 3½ minutes until Wapak answered with a 1-yard run by Cameron Lauck with 7:09 remaining in the first quarter. Tristan Meyer kicked the PAT and the game was tied at 7-all.

The Redskins scored again with 7:44 remaining in the second quarter when quarterback Aaron Huffman found Nate Elsass for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Meyer kicked the point-after and Wapak was up 14-7, which was how the first half ended.

Neither team was able to score in the third quarter, as penalties and stellar defensive plays stifled offensive efforts.

With 5:27 remaining in the game, Van Wert tied things up at 14-all on a 9-yard run by Smith. Gardner kicked the PAT and it was a new ballgame.

But Wapak was definitely not done yet. Lauck ran 9 yards for the go-ahead score with 4:34 remaining in the game and the game came down to Van Wert’s last offensive drive.

After driving down the field, the Cougars put the last score on the board when Smith hit Josh Braun on a 12-yard touchdown pass.

With 1:09 remaining in the game, Van Wert Coach Keith Recker went for the win, and Smith looked at first as if he had crossed the goal line for a two-point conversion that would have won the game for the Cougars. Alas, it wasn’t to be, as the Van Wert senior’s knee came down short of the goal line, and the Cougars had to settle for a moral victory, rather than the win they needed to have a chance to make the playoffs.

VW vs. Wapakoneta football stats 10-2015

POSTED: 10/31/15 at 9:47 am. FILED UNDER: Sports