The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

Preview: Kenton (0-7) at Van Wert (6-1)

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

One of the first Ohio high schools to successfully run a no-huddle, high-scoring, five-wide offense is coming to Van Wert this Friday.

Kenton will be state-ranked Van Wert’s homecoming opponent and while the Wildcats (0-7, 0-6 WBL) have struggled this season, they still run a system that makes many opposing coaches nervous.

A familiar scene for Van Wert has been Aidan Pratt (15) throwing a pass while Cooper Adams (61) provides a block. Bob Barnes/file photo

“Kenton still runs crisp routes, they throw the ball on time, and do a good job of protecting against base fronts,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “If we take a play off at any point, specifically in the secondary, they have the ability to hurt you. They do a nice job on the goalline with double move routes and have added different formations and run plays to their packages.”

Freshman quarterback Korbin Johnston has completed 109-of-170 passes for 1,187 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, but the running game has been struggled. Through seven games, the Wildcats have rushed for a net total of -28 yards, including 11 carries for -61 yards by Johnston during last Friday’s 48-7 loss to St. Marys Memorial.

The Wildcats have struggled on defense as well, giving up 38.7 points and 317 yards per game but despite a difficult season, first year head coach Zach Turner has found some positives.

“I have seen a lot of growth from our kids,” Turner said. “I think when you hit hard times like this you find out who you are. Are you a person who is willing to fight through the hard times to get to the good times? Or are you a person who just wants to pack it up and say oh well.”

“We have kids that are willing to fight and that is great to see. They come into practice everyday and do not practice like an 0-7 team. So those are all good things that have come to surface. When you try to start something great it is always tough so you have to continue to get better every day.”

No. 8 Van Wert (6-1, 5-1 WBL) enters Friday’s game averaging 42 points and 473 yards per game, best among all WBL teams. In five of seven games, the Cougars have scored at least 45 points.

Aidan Pratt continues to impress, completing 143-of-188 passes for 1,945 yards, 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions, with 49 of his completions going to Maddix Crutchfield for 537 yards and four touchdowns. Connor Pratt has 34 receptions for 609 yards and five scores and Garett Gunter has 19 receptions for 295 yards and five touchdowns.

From the quarterback position, Pratt also leads the rushing attack with 90 carries for 662 yards and 10 touchdowns, although running back Nate Jackson has come on strong (66-421, eight touchdowns).

“They are well coached and they have players all over the field, so you cannot key in on one guy and say we have to stop him,” Turner said. “Aidan Pratt is a great player and does a tremendous job on both sides of the ball. Same can be said of his brother Connor Pratt, a big play guy who can stretch you vertically down the field. He’s also a great man cover guy.”

“Then you have Maddix Crutchfield and Nate Jackson, both are hard-nosed kids who run the ball hard and get to the ball with authority on defense,” Turner continued. “You can’t forget about guys like Brylen Parker and Garrett Gunter. Both of those guys run well and have big play capability.”

“Probably the most underrated piece of Van Wert is their line. They return a lot of guys up front. Turner Witten is a four-year letter winner so you know he is experienced and tough. You can tell the offensive and defensive lines follow his lead.”

Along with all of the aforementioned weapons, kicker Damon McCracken is back after missing several weeks with a leg injury. McCracken, who kicked the game winning field goal in last year’ state championship game, is 9-of-11 on extra points since his return two weeks ago.

“Damon worked really hard in the off-season to continue to improve as a kicker and I’m happy that he is finally getting the chance to showcase his work,” Recker said. “His consistency has really improved so it is nice having him back kicking again.”

While preparing for Friday’s game, Recker also noted it’s a fun week for the kids.

“Our school and community do a great job of putting together a lot of fun activities, such as the parade, powder puff game, pep rally, theme days at school, etc. that make this week a lot of fun and can break up some of the monotony that can happen during a season,” Recker said.

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

POSTED: 10/06/21 at 4:03 am. FILED UNDER: Sports