The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022

Week No. 8 preview: Van Wert at Elida

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

Two more wins will lead Van Wert to at least a share of the 2021 Western Buckeye League football championship, the program’s first since 1987.

The Cougars will hit the road to Elida (4-4, 3-4 WBL) on Friday then will return home next Friday to finish the regular season against Bath. After that, Van Wert will host at least one playoff game.

Aidan Pratt and the Van Wert offense will face a stingy Elida defense. Bob Barnes/file photo

As the regular season winds down, the Cougars (7-1, 6-1 WBL, No. 7, Division IV) are focusing on the little things necessary to win a league championship and enjoy a successful playoff run.

“We have added a little individual time to our practice schedule the last two weeks as a way to make sure we focus and stay sharp on our basic fundamentals and technique,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “It’s easy to forget about those things as you wind down the regular season and are busy preparing for an opponent, so we thought it was very important that we don’t lose sight of being great blockers, tacklers, route runners, etc.”

While talking about the Cougars, many fans will discuss the team’s high-flying offense but the defense, led by defensive end Ty Jackson and defensive tackle Turner Witten, has stood out the last two games.

“Our defensive line is really what makes our defense go because of how well they have stopped the run and can get pressure on the quarterback,” Recker said. “Turner showed all of his talents in a three or four play span last week with a sack, a diving interception, and then chases down a screen and makes the tackle. Ty is playing with great control and technique. He is doing a great job playing square to the line of scrimmage, playing downhill runs, and has the speed and athleticism to make plays on the outside if the quarterback keeps the ball.”

Jackson and Witten each have 38 tackles, including three sacks by Jackson and one by Witten and the two have combined for nine tackles for losses. Jackson also has three pass breakups.

“Defensively their defensive front is extremely active and physical and they pursue to the ball well, so it is very important that we execute up front and play with the same level of intensity,” Elida head coach Kyle Harmon said. “Their back end is well versed in their scheme and athletic.”

Van Wert’s defense allows 271 yards and 22.5 points per game, while the offense is averaging a WBL-best 473 total yards per game. Pratt has upped his passing totals to 160-of-214 for 2,146 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions while running for 710 yards and 12 touchdowns on 97 carries.

Nate Jackson has added 10 rushing touchdowns and 499 yards on the ground while Maddix Crutchfield has 54 receptions for 585 yards and four touchdowns. Connor Pratt has 42 catches for 683 yards and five touchdowns.

“Obviously Van Wert is a very experienced and explosive football team,” Harmon said. “They have weapons all over the place on offense so you have to be extremely fundamentals and read your keys when we are on defense. They can stress you with every position on the field.”

The offense will match up against a defense that allows just over 200 total yards and 15 points per game.

“On the defensive side we have been playing good fundamental football and executing our scheme,” Harmon said. “Our run defense has been pretty stout over the course of the season and our pass defense as well.
During the final two weeks of the season we need to continue to focus one week at a time.”

“We play two very good football teams and it is going to take a total team effort against each team for us to win. We need to continue to work on fundamentals and execution on both sides.”

In terms of offense, the Bulldogs average about 250 total yards per game with an emphasis on the run. On the scoreboard Elida has struggled at times, scoring a touchdown or less four times.

“Our run game and offensive line play has gotten better over the course of the season,” Harmon said. “Our offensive line has started to gel together quite a bit. Our pass game in the last few weeks has also become a lot more efficient.”

“Offensively, their quarterback (Larkin Henderson) throws a very nice ball and has the ability to run,” Recker said. He hit their best receiver, Jayden Irons, with a 50 yard post in stride two weeks ago. They have athletic wide receivers and a big, athletic offensive line.”

Van Wert won last year’s game 55-20.

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

POSTED: 10/13/21 at 3:55 am. FILED UNDER: Sports