The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

Cougars hope to rebound in Week No. 6

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

It wasn’t the result Van Wert was hoping for, but the Cougars are ready to move forward to Friday’s Western Buckeye League game at Bath.

A 38-yard touchdown pass from Owen Treece to Dru Johnson with just 30 seconds left pulled the Cougars to within one, 35-34, against Ottawa-Glandorf, but the two-point conversion attempt was stopped by the Titans.

Even so, Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said he believes the loss will help the Cougars focus on this Friday’s game.

Connor Pratt has emerged as a big play receiver for the Cougars. Jerry Mason photo

“Sometimes winning makes you forget about the little things that can make a big difference,” Recker said. “After the loss, our coaching staff spent a lot of time on what we can do better throughout the week to make sure we don’t make the mistakes that we did. We are going to emphasize those little things this week and make sure we bring our best against Bath.”

“A win this week would give us a good confidence boost heading into the playoffs,” he added. “We talked about focusing on what we can control, including the playoffs. There is nothing this week we can do for playoffs, but we can control our preparation and effort against Bath.”

While Bath’s record (1-4) may not be impressive, the consensus seems to be the Wildcats are a much improved team that has played a daunting schedule, with games against St. Marys Memorial, Kenton, Elida, Ottawa-Glandorf and Celina, five teams with a combined record of 16-9.

The lone win came over Kenton (21-14), and two of the losses have come by three and seven points. In a 20-17 loss to Ottawa-Glandorf, the Wildcats led by 10 on two occasions.

“Offensively, they mix up the run and pass very well, and do it out of a variety of spread and pro formations,” Recker said of the Wildcats. “They have a very good size offensive line, averaging about 250 pounds across the line. They have a freshman quarterback that is already a good player and is complemented by some good athletes at their skill positions.”

“Defensively they again have good size with their front seven and have done a nice job stopping the run. They are in the top three of the league with rushing defense.”

Bradyn Fleharty has completed 81-of-145 passes for 860 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. His favorite targets have been Wyatt Maley (18-294, one touchdown) and Blaine Albright (18-207, two touchdowns).

The running game has struggled at times this season, as Bath has netted 372 yards and five touchdowns on 147 carries, but the Wildcats received a lift in that area last week.

“As the season has gone we have improved incrementally each week,” Bath head coach Ryan Reindel said. “We have been plagued with injuries this season. We have not had a week where the starters have been the same as the previous week.”

“Our offense continues to get better each week. Quarterback has been the biggest improvement. Bradyn Fleharty is seeing the field better each week and is doing a great job of extending plays and keeping his eyes downfield. Last week, we got back running back Carter Parlapiano, which helped add to our run game as well as the pass. He had 21 carries for 95 yards and five catches.”

“Defensively, we have improved on our tackling,” Reindel added. “Our defense is physical and rallies to the football really well.”

While the second year coach is pleased with his team’s improvement, he’s also looking at the next step – consistency and the ability to finish games.

“We have competed in each game this year but there are many ups and downs during those games,” Reindel explained. “We have to do a better job of making plays late in the game. We also need to do a better job of stopping the big play.”

Van Wert has enjoyed a number of big plays this season and enter Friday’s game averaging 456 yards per game. Quarterback Owen Treece continues to pile up impressive numbers, completing 91-of-137 passes for 1,332 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions, while leading the team in rushing with 446 yards and eight touchdowns on 75 carries.

The receivers continue to be balanced with Dru Johnson (21-564, eight touchdowns), Nate Jackson (20-143, four touchdowns), Connor Pratt (18-307) and Ian Cowan (12-182, two touchdowns).

Defensively, the Cougars allow just 226 yards per game and seven players have at least 20 tackles – Jackson, Treece, Johnson, Cullen Dunn, Jacob Fuerst, Jacob Place, Aidan Pratt and Trey Laudick.

“Coach Recker and his staff have done a great job building a winning culture,” Reindel said. “They are No. 1 in the WBL in several categories. Offensively they are very explosive and they have multiple weapons that have big play potential. They can attack you on the ground or through the air, which doesn’t allow defense to focus on one dimension.”

“Defensively, they are very sound,” he continued. “Their defensive front does a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and allowing their linebackers to make plays in the run game.”

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

POSTED: 09/30/20 at 3:48 am. FILED UNDER: Sports