The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

VW Cougars, Bearcats favored in poll

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

It’s that time of year, time to make preseason predictions for the Northwest Conference and Western Buckeye League football championship races.

In some years there’s a clear cut favorite in one or both the NWC and the WBL and there are years where several teams can be considered legitimate championship contenders and the latter seems to be true this season. Two or three teams can be considered as NWC title contenders and perhaps as many as three or four in the WBL.

Here are the VW independent’s predictions, based on information provided by coaches and other factors.

Some people will agree with these picks and others will not and that’s okay. If you’d like, send me your predictions because I like to know what other people think. For the record, I’ll compare my predictions and the actual final standings once the regular season is complete.

NWC

This is tough. With a large number of returning starters Leipsic – the conference’s newest member – could easily be considered the favorite to win the 2020 championship, yet I can’t help but think Spencerville has a real shot as well. After overthinking this, here goes.

  1. Spencerville
  2. Leipsic
  3. Allen East
  4. Crestview
  5. Bluffton
  6. Columbus Grove
  7. Delphos Jefferson
  8. Ada

Truth be told, you can easily swap Spencerville and Leipsic. I’ve done it a couple of times. It feels like it could be 1 and 1A either way. Yes, Leipsic has eight starters back on both sides of the ball, and Spencerville has 12 starters back. The two teams will meet in Week No. 5, September 17, at Spencerville in what could very well be the NWC title game.

After that, things are pretty jumbled. If Allen East has a replacement for Tyler Clum at quarterback the Mustangs could again be a high-flying challenge. Crestview has a new coach in James Lautzenheiser and he has eight starters back on defense along with three returning offensive linemen.

Bluffton has 10 starters back on offense and the triple option is enough to give any team fits. If the defense is improved, this is a team that could be ranked higher.

Three-time NWC champion Columbus Grove lost a ton of talent but has some nice players back and despite a seventh-place projection, I believe Delphos Jefferson will be improved this fall.

Ada has a new coach and 31 players, but the Bulldogs have some catching up to do after playing just three games last fall.

WBL

Van Wert is the defending Division IV state champion, but the Cougars lost players like Owen Treece and Dru Johnson. However, head coach Keith Recker has a lot of talent back and while it won’t be easy, I’m picking Van Wert to win the program’s first WBL title since 1987, when the Cougars shared it with Kenton and St. Marys Memorial. If Van Wert can win it outright, it would be the first time since 1969.

  1. Van Wert
  2. Wapakoneta
  3. Elida
  4. Ottawa-Glandorf
  5. St. Marys Memorial
  6. Shawnee
  7. Defiance
  8. Bath
  9. Kenton
  10. Celina

Here are some things to ponder:

The Cougars will have a target on their collective backs each and every week. Everyone wants to knock off a defending state champion.

I went back and forth over Wapakoneta and Elida and it’s fair to say those two teams could be flip-flopped and the same can be said for Ottawa-Glandorf and St. Marys Memorial. I do believe those five teams will make up the upper division of the WBL.

Picking Shawnee No. 6 doesn’t feel right but there are so many quality teams in the WBL this year. It’s most likely going to be a slugfest. The same feels true for Bath.

Defiance will be improved but it may take a season for the results to show up in the win/loss column. Kenton has a new coach but will use the same offensive five-wide, no-huddle system. However, a lack of returning starters could hurt early on. This is a textbook example of a team that would benefit from a few more practices and perhaps another scrimmage.

If you have thoughts, questions or predictions or your own, please email sports@thevwindependent.com.

POSTED: 08/12/21 at 5:28 am. FILED UNDER: Sports