The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

Preview: 3-6 Celina at 5-4 Van Wert

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

The Division IV playoffs are out of reach, but the Van Wert Cougars have their sights set on a second consecutive winning season.

After going 9-3 last year, Van Wert can finish this season 6-4 if the Cougars can top Celina on Friday night.

“If we are able to beat Celina, it would be the first back-to-back winning seasons since 2000-2001,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “I would love for that to happen so our players can be rewarded for their commitment and hard work they put into the football program. We want to make winning seasons the norm, not the exception.”

Friday’s game will be the final one for a dozen Cougar seniors.

“I have really enjoyed seeing how this group has progressed from their freshman to their senior years,” Recker explained. “We have 12 seniors and all 12 have played pivotal roles for us in games and in practice. We have some very good football players in this group, but even better, we have a bunch of very respectful young men. They have made this season very enjoyable to be a coach.”

Van Wert will finish the 2019 season at home against WBL foe Celina. A win would give the Cougars a 6-4 record. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

Entering Friday’s game, Recker said he’s pleased with the progress his offensive and defensive lines have made throughout the season.

“Those two groups have made the most progress from when we started football activities in June through the end of the season,” Recker said. “We had to replace four of five starters on the offensive line and three of four starters on the defensive line. We have had a mixture of seniors and sophomores that have not only filled in those spots, but have played very good football through out the course of the season.”

Celina enters the game 3-6 (2-7 WBL), and the Bulldogs feature a two-pronged rushing attack with quarterback Cooper Jones, the WBL’s leading rusher (159 carries, 948 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Jaxson Silliman (147 carries, 782 yards, seven touchdowns). Jones has also passed for 815 yards and seven touchdowns.

“They, like Bath, are much better than their record,” Recker said of Celina. “They lost a one point game to Ottawa-Glandorf, who is very good and is playing for a league title this week. They have very good size on both their offensive and defensive lines and they have a very good quarterback in Cooper Jones.”

Van Wert will counter with Owen Treece, the Western Buckeye League’s second leading passer (133 of 223, 1,693 yards, 15 touchdowns, eight interceptions) and third leading rusher (151 carries, 818 yards and seven touchdowns).

“Very good on both sides of the ball,” Celina head coach Brennan Bader said of the Cougars. “(They have) several weapons on offense. No. 7 (Treece) is a great athlete and makes and extreme impact on offense and defense. Van Wert is an extremely physical team and they are well coached.”

Jake Hilleary has 681 yards and 11 touchdowns on 138 carries, while Tanner Barnhart, Dru Johnson and TJ Reynolds are team leaders in receptions. Barnhart has 37 catches for 467 yards and two touchdowns, Johnson has 29 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns and TJ Reynolds has 32 catches for 251 yards and a score.

“The quarterback running with the football is our main concern defensively,” Bader said. “Offensively we must take care of the football and be balanced, and we need to win the third down battles on both sides.”

Van Wert won last year’s matchup 38-20.

Friday’s Celina at Van Wert game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.

POSTED: 10/30/19 at 7:12 am. FILED UNDER: Sports