The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

Cougars drop WBL opener to Wapak

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

WAPAKONETA — Wapakoneta’s bullish running game proved to be too much for Van Wert on Friday night, as the Redskins defeated the Cougars 42-12 in the Western Buckeye League opener for both teams.

Junior running back Evan Kaeck had 21 carries for 126 yards and four touchdowns, while senior Riley Gibson-Worthen had 13 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins finished with 301 rushing yards.

Nate Place (10) drops back to pass, while Drew Bagley (87) runs a pattern against the Wapakoneta defense. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

Senior quarterback Brady Erb had three carries for 36 yards, and he threw just four passes all night, all in the first half. He completed all four for 107 yards and a touchdown.

It looked like it could be a shootout early on as the two teams traded touchdowns to open the game.

The Cougars (1-1, 0-1 WBL) took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 12 plays, capping the drive with a four yard touchdown run by Jake Hilleary, who rushed for 28 yards on the drive. The missed extra point left Van Wert holding a 6-0 lead with 9:03 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Redskins (2-0, 1-0 WBL) drove 60 yards in nine plays, including seven runs and a reception by Kaeck, and scored when he rumbled in from 10 yards out. The PAT by Tristan Gesler gave Wapakoneta a 7-6 lead with 5:10 left in the quarter.

Van Wert responded in just four plays. Place ran for 10 yards, tossed an incomplete pass, then hit Drew Bagley for a nine yard gain. On third and one, Place called his own number, ran into a pile and popped out, sprinting 61 yards for a touchdown and a 12-7 lead at the 4:09 mark.

“We had things rolling a little bit offensively, but even with that, it wasn’t with designed plays, so we were struggling a little bit,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “Nate was good enough to make some plays, but they figured out how to coral him. We weren’t blocking well enough and weren’t getting things going consistently enough to put enough points up to win.”

After Van Wert took a five point lead, it was all Wapakoneta from there, as the Redskins scored 35 unanswered points.

Erb connected with Gibson-Worthern on a 62 yard touchdown pass with 3:10 left in the opening quarter, then the Redskins intercepted an Owen Treece pass on Van Wert’s ensuing possession, setting up a three play, 38 yard drive that ended with Gibson-Worthern’s 22 yard touchdown run with 1:22 left in the opening stanza.

Wapakoneta enjoyed a 21-12 lead entering the second quarter, then added to it when Kaeck scored his second touchdown of the night on a nine yard run. On the previous play, Erb lofted a perfect play action pass to Isaac Meeks for 36 yards.

The Redskins scored once in the third quarter on a five yard touchdown run, then the 205 pound junior scored at the 11:21 mark of the fourth quarter, which increased the lead to 42-12 and started a rolling clock for the remainder of the game.

“That was my biggest concern, because I felt like we might be a little more athletic, but they might be a little more physical, and the physical (team) won the game,” Recker said of Wapakoneta’s style of play. “We’re going to have to get that figured out, because we’re going to run into some more physical teams,”

Van Wert mounted a 14 play drive and had the ball at the one yard line, but after a bad snap, Treece scrambled and threw an interception in the end zone.

Place finished the game with 18 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown, and completed 14 of 21 passes for 103 yards. Bagley had five catches for 46 yards, Dru Johnson each had three receptions for 19 yards.

Hilleary had 14 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown, and three catches for 19 yards.

“Hopefully we can look back come Week No. 9 or 10, and look back at Week No. 2 as a turning point in our year,” Recker said. “I think these guys will respond. They’re a tight group, a hungry group and I think they’re going to learn from this and keep moving forward.”

Van Wert will host defending WBL champion St. Marys on Friday, while Wapakoneta will host Shawnee.

Scoring summary:

9:03 1st qtr: Jake Hilleary 16 yard run (kick blocked) 6-0 VW
5:10 1st qtr: Evan Kaeck 5 yard run (Tristan Gesler kick) 7-6 W
4:09 1st qtr: Nate Place 61 yard run (kick failed) 12-7 VW
3:10 1st qtr: Brady Erb 62 yard pass to Riley Gibson-Worthern (Gesler kick) 14-12 W
1:22 1st qtr: Riley Gibson-Worthen 22 yard run (Gesler kick) 21-12 W
9:37 2nd qtr: Evan Kaeck 9 yard run (Gesler kick) 28-12 W
8:35 3rd qtr: Evan Kaeck 3 yard run (Gesler kick) 35-12 W
11:21 4th qtr: Evan Kaeck 5 yard run (Gesler kick) 42-12 W

POSTED: 08/31/18 at 11:55 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports