The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022

Preview: 5-1 Van Wert at 4-2 Shawnee

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

When it comes to a possible Western Buckeye League title, outright or shared, the No. 9 Van Wert Cougars control their own destiny.

If the Cougars (5-1, 4-1 WBL) win out they’ll capture a share of the league championship, while the same be said for Wapakoneta (4-2, 4-1 WBL). Those two teams have a one game lead over Shawnee, Bath, St. Marys Memorial and Bath.

Trey Laudick (9), Maddix Crutchfield (11) and the entire Van Wert defense hope to tackle Shawnee’s offense on Friday. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

“I think our league is very balanced because of the skill level that is in the Western Buckeye League and I believe there are very good coaches in our league that understand how to make things difficult for opponents,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “Most weeks it comes down to matchups and who can win their individual matchups to help their team win.”

After going through the three-game gauntlet of Wapakoneta, St. Marys Memorial and Ottawa-Glandorf, a new challenge awaits Van Wert – the Shawnee Indians (4-2, 3-2 WBL), a team that hangs its hat on defense.

“They are one of the, if not the, best defensive team in the league,” Recker stated. “They have good size, play physical and run to the ball well.”

Through seven games, Shawnee has allowed an average of 13.5 points per game and has allowed seven points or less three times. The Indians give up just 229.6 total yards per game, including 132.1 via the rush and 97.5 through the air.

On offense Shawnee has struggled at times, averaging 234.5 yards per game, including 112 on the ground and 122.5 passing. During last Friday’s 25-3 loss to St. Marys Memorial, the Indians netted just four yards rushing and 139 yards passing.

Quarterback Tyler Windau has completed 63-of-112 passes for 727 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions with Keaton Cooper snaring 22 catches for 318 yards. Jordan Banks is the leading rusher with 48 carries for 224 yards and a touchdown.

“Offensively they have some good weapons and their quarterback does a very nice job running the ball and scrambling around to make plays,” Recker said of the Indians, who started the season 4-0 but have since dropped two straight.

Shawnee head coach Jerry Cooper did not respond to a request for comment.

While Van Wert’s offense has slowed a bit the previous two games, the Cougars are still averaging 469 yards per game, including 282 through the air and 187 on the ground.

Aidan Pratt continues to lead WBL passers (114-of-151, 1,660 yards, 16 touchdowns, two interceptions), with 41 completions going to Maddix Crutchfield for 497 yards and three touchdowns. Crutchfield also played linebacker for the first time last week and had 13 tackles. Connor Pratt has 25 receptions for 504 yards and three scores while Garett Gunter has 16 catches for 317 yards and five touchdowns.

Pratt is the leading ground gainer with 535 yards and eight touchdowns on 71 carries while Nate Jackson has 58 carries for 338 yards and six touchdowns, including four last week against the Titans.

“We pride ourselves on being able to run and pass the ball well and being able to take what the defense gives us,” Recker said. “Both St. Marys and Ottawa-Glandorf are difficult to pass against and we knew we would need to establish the run. I am very pleased with how we have been able to do that lately.”

“We have done some very good things so far this year,” the coach added. “The thing I would like to see improve for us is our consistency. Our offense, defense, and special teams have made great plays throughout the season but sparingly we have shown lapses in effort or technique and we have to fix those lapses to be a great team.”

The two teams did not meet during last year’s abbreviated regular season, but Van Wert won the 2019 matchup 34-21.

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

POSTED: 09/29/21 at 4:00 am. FILED UNDER: Sports