The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

Pratt shines, Cougars defeat Bryan 47-28

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

BRYAN — In his first varsity start at quarterback, Aidan Pratt threw three touchdown passes and ran for three more scores and Van Wert turned a fast start into a 47-28 win over Bryan in Friday’s season opener at Golden Bear Stadium.

Dating back to 2017, the victory was Van Wert’s fourth straight over the Golden Bears. The two teams didn’t play last season due to the COVID-19 shortened regular season.

Aidan Pratt winds up to throw a long touchdown pass against Bryan. Pratt threw for three scores and ran for three more against the Golden Bears. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent sports

Pratt fired his first touchdown pass of the season on the second play from scrimmage – a 55-yard dart to Garett Gunter, then followed up with a four-yard scoring throw to Brylen Parker with less than three minutes to go in the first quarter.

Those two touchdown passes, along with a five-yard scoring run by Nate Jackson and a pair of extra points by Connor Pratt gave the Cougars a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“I think getting off to a good start was huge just because they (Bryan) were so excited and it was important to take away any type of momentum that they wanted to start with,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “Our guys came out and executed real well and I don’t know if we could have scripted a better start to it.”

A one-yard touchdown run by Pratt increased the lead to 27-0 less than 90 seconds into the second quarter, but the Golden Bears responded with a 13-play, 64-yard drive and scored when lineman Noah Phillips pounced on a fumble in the end zone. The drive was kept alive by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Van Wert on third and 11.

By halftime, Pratt had completed 12-of-12 passes for 219 yards. He went on to finish 22-of-26 for 334 yards and three scores and he had 12 carries for 72 yards and three more touchdowns, as the Cougars rolled up more than 500 yards of total offense.

Maddix Crutchfield was Pratt’s favorite target with 10 receptions for 160 yards, while Connor Pratt had six catches for 67 yards.

“It was just a great effort by him to do all of that on offense and then to turn around and play defensive end on a night like this when we had guys dropping with cramps – for him to play that much football, it was just such a great effort by him,” Recker said.

Armed with a 27-7 lead to start the third quarter, the Cougars forced Bryan punt, then drove 70 yards in just over two minutes and scored on Pratt’s second one-yard touchdown run of the night.

Luke Wessell (4), Carter Miller (18) and Nate Jackson (20) combine to stop Bryan’s Korbin Shepherd. Bob Barnes photo

However, Bryan responded with a nine-play, 56-yard run that was capped off by Korbin Shepherd’s seven-yard touchdown run to make it 33-14. Shepherd was the workhorse for the Golden Bears, finishing with 31 carries for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The two teams traded touchdowns from there. After a pass interference call and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, Pratt connected with the elder Pratt for an 18-yard touchdown, then Bryan quarterback Jase Kepler found Trenton Wolfe from 55 yards out with just 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

Shepherd’s one-yard touchdown run with 9:21 left in the final period pulled Bryan to within 12, 40-28 but from there, Van Wert forced a turnover on downs then sealed the win with an 18-yard touchdown run by Pratt with 1:12 left in the game.

While Van Wert seemingly moved the ball at will, the Cougars were plagued by a pair of turnovers, plus a number of penalties.

“We have to do a better job of securing the football,” Recker stated.

The Cougars will host Celina in the Western Buckeye League opener and home opener on Friday night.

“We’re looking forward to packed stadium and having Celina come to town,” Recker said. It’ll be a good matchup. We’ll have to do a much better job of hydrating and preparing ourselves and our bodies to play in a hot game.”

Scoring summary

VWHS 20 7 13 7 – 47
Bryan 0 7 14 7 – 28

First quarter

VW – Aidan Pratt 55-yard pass to Garett Gunter (Connor Pratt kick)
VW – Nate Jackson 5-yard run (Pratt kick)
VW – Aidan Pratt 4-yard pass to Brylen Parker (kick failed)

Second quarter

VW – Aidan Pratt 1-yard touchdown run (Pratt kick)
B – Noah Phillips fumble recovery in the end zone (Quinn Brown kick)

Third quarter

VW – Aidan Pratt 1-yard run (Pratt kick)
B – Korbin Shepherd 7-yard run (Pratt kick)
VW – Aidan Pratt 18-yard pass to Connor Pratt (Pratt kick)
B – Jase Kepler 55-yard pass to Trenton Wolfe (Brown kick)

Fourth quarter

B – Shepherd 1-yard run (Quinn Brown kick)
VW – Aidan Pratt 18-yard run (Pratt kick)

POSTED: 08/21/21 at 1:03 am. FILED UNDER: Sports