The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jan. 15, 2021

Van Wert rolls by Shelby, semifinals next

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

SHELBY – Along with playoff road warriors, you can call the Van Wert Cougars regional champions.

Van Wert blistered Shelby for 49 first half points on the way to a 49-7 victory over the No. 8 ranked Whippets, giving the Cougars (9-1) the Division IV Region 14 championship and a spot in the state semifinals.

Owen Treece put on quite a show against the Shelby Whippets. Bob Barnes photos

It’s the second regional championship in school history, with the other coming in 2000. It was also the second consecutive weekend the Cougars defeated an undefeated Associated Press top-10 team and the third playoff win on the road in widespread Region 14.

“I’m just so proud for our guys, our town and just all the excitement that it brought,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said.

Van Wert’s Owen Treece put on a show that left Shelby fans in disbelief.

The senior quarterback threw five first half touchdown passes, with the first going to Dru Johnson from eight yards out with 9:20 left in the opening quarter. After the Cougars blocked a quick kick, Treece bought time with his legs and fired a 11-yard scoring strike to Connor Pratt, with Damon McCracken adding the second of his seven PATs to give Van Wert a 14-0 lead.

After Treece returned a Shelby punt 47 yards, Nate Jackson scored on a 16-yard run, then on Shelby’s next offensive play, Johnson intercepted Marshall Shepherd and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 28-0 with 1:57 left in the period.

On the next possession, Shelby (9-1) drove to the Van Wert one-yard line but lost a fumble, setting up a 96-yard touchdown pass from Treece to Johnson with 8:30 left in the second quarter.

“It was a big momentum shift there and it was a really nice throw and catch,” Recker said. “Owen put it out there and hit him in stride perfectly and then Dru did the rest from there. That was a huge play for us.”

The Cougars added two more scores to make it 49-0 before halftime – a 10-yard touchdown pass from Treece to Nate Jackson and a 16-yard strike from Treece to Maddix Crutchfield.

Before the fumble recovery, the Whippets lost the school’s all-time leading rusher, Owen Fisher, to an injury. Fisher, who entered the game with 1,674 yards and 25 touchdowns, had 12 carries for 41 yards.

Treece, who completed 14 of 15 passes for 229 yards and five touchdowns, also intercepted a Shepherd pass shortly before halftime. Johnson had four receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Connor Pratt catches a touchdown pass for the Cougars during Saturday’s game.

“He just seems to top every performance,” Recker said of Treece. “When you think you’ve see the best of him, he just brings another best and makes our team so much better.”

“He is a very good football player and possibly the best we have seen this year,” Shelby head coach Robert Mahaney said. “When your quarterback has 46 total touchdowns and then he is your punt returner, that speaks to the type of athlete he is and the fact they want him to have the ball all the time shows how dynamic he is.”

While Treece and the offense put on a show in the first half, the defense set the tone by forcing five three-and-outs, while recovering three turnovers and a sack.

The entire second half was played with a rolling clock, and Shelby’s lone score came with 1:37 left in the third quarter, when Shepherd hit Blaine Bowman from eight yards out.

Shepherd finished 8-of-23 for 68 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and the Whippets finished with just 149 yards of total offense, compared to 330 for the Cougars.

“I can’t say enough about our defensive line, they’re undersized but they play with a great motor, fight off blocks really well,” Recker said. “They do their job and then Nate Jackson from the secondary had 15 tackles and did a great job when we need to put one extra hat in there. Overall, a great effort by our defense.”

Van Wert will face No. 3 Cincinnati Wyoming in the Division IV state semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at Alexander Stadium in Piqua.

Scoring summary

Shelby 0 0 7 0 – 7
VWHS 28 21 0 0 – 49

First quarter

VW – Owen Treece 8-yard pass to Dru Johnson (Damon McCracken kick)
VW – Owen Treece 11-yard pass to Connor Pratt (Damon McCracken kick)
VW – Nate Jackson 16-yard run (Damon McCracken kick)
VW – Dru Johnson 25-yard interception return (Damon McCracken kick)

Second quarter

VW – Owen Treece 96-yard pass to Dru Johnson (Damon McCracken kick)
VW – Owen Treece 10-yard pass to Nate Jackson (Damon McCracken kick)
VW – Owen Treece 16-yard pass to Maddix Crutchfield (Damon McCracken kick)

Third quarter

SHS – Marshall Shepherd 8-yard pass to Blaine Bowman (Marshall Shepherd kick)

POSTED: 11/08/20 at 11:25 am. FILED UNDER: Sports