The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Jan. 24, 2022

Preview: 2-0 Van Wert at 1-1 Defiance

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

One team is scoring points seemingly at will while the other is struggling to put points on the scoreboard.

Van Wert (2-0, 1-0 WBL) enters Friday’s game against Defiance averaging 46 points per game and giving up 17.5 points, while the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 WBL) are averaging 3.5 points and allowing 31.5 points. Defiance defeated Napoleon 7-0 in Week No. 1 then fell to St. Marys Memorial 56-0 last Friday.

Entering Week No. 3, Van Wert wide receiver Connor Pratt has nine receptions for 220 and three touchdowns. Photo courtesy of Jerry Mason

On paper, the game appears to be a mismatch but Van Wert head coach Keith Recker believes Defiance will present some challenges during the Week No. 3 game at Fred Brown Stadium, especially on defense.

“Defiance will be in a 3-4 defense and have the ability to bring different blitzes and stunts which is definitely concerning for us to make sure our offensive line is prepared to block everything they can throw at you,” Recker explained. “Their linebackers really attack the line of scrimmage.”

Linebackers Dom Tracy and Alex Hoeffel have combined for 37 tackles so far.

In terms of offense, the Bulldogs have tried to mix things up and have used two different quarterbacks.

“Offensively they have a very athletic wide receiver (Drew Kellermyer, 7-111, one touchdown) who they like to get the ball to in the run and pass game,” Recker said. “They have mixed in two quarterbacks who both do some good things. The guy they played the last three quarters against St. Marys (Kam’Ron Rivera) has the ability to get going in their run game, so we have to prepare for that as well.”

Gavin Miller has competed 7-of-15 passes for 110 yards, a touchdown and one interception, while Rivera has completed 2-of-3 passes for 19 yards and an interception, while rushing nine times for 36 yards.

Travis Cooper is in his first year as head coach at Defiance, but he’s no stranger to the game, having compiled a 73-44 record at Bryan and Wauseon.

He’s taken over a program that went 1-9 last year and 7-33 over the last five seasons. He said the rebuilding process will take some time and may be a roller coaster ride as evidenced by the win over Napoleon, then last week’s loss to the Roughriders.

“St. Mary’s is a very good football team,” Cooper said. “They have the ability to have their guys play one way and on a hot, humid night our guys didn’t respond the way we would have liked.”

“We know that creating a winning culture is a process and will have many bumps in the road. The positive is that everyone showed up Saturday morning hungry to get better and owned their lack of execution.”

The Bulldogs will try to contain Van Wert quarterback Aidan Pratt, who has completed 40-of-48 passes for 684 yards and nine touchdowns. Maddix Crutchfield (15-210, one touchdown) and Connor Pratt (9-220, three touchdowns) have been his main targets, although Garett Gunter (4-123, two touchdowns) and Ethan Brown (2-75, one touchdown) have shown big play ability.

“Coach Bryce Crea, our receivers coach, does a great job of making sure all of our receivers are focused on doing all the little things correctly,” Recker said. “That includes being a great blocker, which sometimes gets lost as a wide receiver. The whole group of receivers understand their importance on every play, whether they are getting the ball, they need to run a route to get someone else open, or if they need to block.”

“Then you add in the fact that we have some great athletes in those positions it makes our offense that much more difficult to defend. We can put Ethan, Trey (Laudick), Nate, (Jackson) and Connor out there who were all at the state track meet this past year, then we throw in Maddix and Garett who are running very good routes and catching the ball well.

“They are the defending state champs and that confidence jumps off the screen while watching film,” Cooper said. “They have a lot of returning starters from last year’s team and the concern with Van Wert is the way that they control the line of scrimmage and the athletes they have all over the field.”

The Cougars have won four straight against the Bulldogs, including 56-20 last season.

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

POSTED: 09/01/21 at 3:58 am. FILED UNDER: Sports