The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

Preview: 5-5 Rossford at 9-1 Van Wert

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

The regular season has come and gone and now the Van Wert Cougars are preparing to begin their defense of their 2020 Division IV state championship, a journey that won’t be easy in a loaded Region 14.

The No. 3 seed Cougars (9-1) will open the playoffs Friday at home against No. 14 seed Rossford (5-5). Van Wert captured a share of the Western Buckeye League championship with a 51-7 win over Bath in the regular season finale and finished fifth in the final Division IV Associated Press poll of the season, while the Bulldogs ended with a 42-7 to Elmwood.

Van Wert wide receiver Garett Gunter has left defenders in the dirt throughout the 2021 season. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

“I am really proud of and happy for our players that they were able to achieve a WBL championship,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “That is something that will be up at the stadium and in the gym forever and they should be really proud of that accomplishment.”

After the win over Bath it appeared as though the Cougars would finish as the No. 2 seed in the region and host Huron or Edison, but that changed when No. 3 seed Clyde upset Bellevue, putting the Fliers in the second spot and setting up Van Wert’s game against Rossford.

The Bulldogs, members of the Northern Buckeye Conference, haven’t won two straight or lost two straight all season. They also played a challenging schedule that featured a 9-1 team, a 9-0 team, an 8-1 team, plus two teams that finished 7-2 and 6-3. Overall, Rossford averages and gives up 25 points per game.

“Inconsistent,” 12th year Rossford head coach Todd Drusback said of his team. “We have played really good in stretches and really poorly in stretches. We have beaten a really good Columbus Eastmoor team and then last week laid an egg against a good Elmwood team. We have only played three teams with a losing record and all of our losses have been to pretty good teams.”

Inconsistent or not, Recker said the Bulldogs will present some challenges on Friday night.

“Rossford has a quarterback that has thrown for 24 touchdowns this season and he has a couple 6-3 receivers that he can throw it up to. They mix in the run with screens, intermediate, and deep throws scheme wise.”

Alex Williams has completed 161-of-286 passes for 2,081 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions, while rushing for 593 yards and four touchdowns on 154 carries. Ben Morrison leads a balanced receiving unit (36-506, 12 touchdowns), followed by Trenton Bachmayer (29-278, two touchdowns) and Holden Martens (27-303, three touchdowns).

On the other side of the ball, Rossford has given up 15 points or less four times, but gave up 30 point or more in four other games.

“Defensively, they have the ability to get into a three, four or five -man front and at times will bring a lot of pressure and other times will align in a base front and read.”

The Bulldog defense will be tested by Aidan Pratt, who’s completed 202-of-269 passes for 2,602 yards, 26 touchdowns and three touchdowns and rushed for 932 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 125 carries. He’s targeted Maddix Crutchfield (64-663, four touchdowns), Connor Pratt (54-823, six touchdowns) and Garett Gunter (30-562, six touchdowns). In addition, Trey Laudick caught three touchdown passes during last Friday’s win over Bath.

“They are fast and athletic and most importantly have a winning pedigree which goes a long way,” Drusback said of the Cougars. “They are simplistic in their approach and it shows by how well they execute. They will not beat themselves with mental mistakes.”

The winner of Friday’s game will face No. 6 seed Wooster Triway or No. 11 seed Wauseon in the regional quarterfinals. The game would be at Eggerss Stadium, should the Cougars defeat Rossford.

Any and all Van Wert playoff games will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.

POSTED: 10/27/21 at 3:53 am. FILED UNDER: Sports