The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

Preview: Van Wert (11-1) vs. Clyde (10-2)

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

The previous two Division IV state champions will meet in the regional semifinals in Napoleon on Friday, with the winner advancing to the regional championship game.

No. 3 seed Van Wert (11-1) and No. 2 seed Clyde (10-2) will square off at Buckenmeyer Stadium and by all indications, it should be great one.

Nate Jackson (20), Aidan Pratt (15) and the entire Van Wert offense will face a very tough Clyde defense on Friday night. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

To get to this point, the Cougars have rolled by two playoff opponents, defeating Rossford 46-0 and Wauseon 53-20 while Clyde coasted by Galion 56-7 in the opening round then needed two overtimes to top Shelby 42-35 in last week’s regional quarterfinals.

While the offense has steamrolled nearly every opponent, Van Wert’s defense has shown steady improvement throughout the season and head coach Keith Recker said a big key has been the ability to rotate defensive linemen and linebackers.

“Creating depth at those positions is important and we have good depth,” Recker said. “We want to be able to get fresh guys in as much as possible so they can bring great effort in defeating blocks and pursuing to the football. Having depth at those positions is a credit to the coaches that they get guys ready to play and our players are putting in the work to be ready to play.”

Jackson Jones and Logan Dotson are among the players providing relief along the offensive line while Damon McCracken, Xavier Okuly, Jacob Fuerst and Kaden Bates have made linebacker an area of strength.

Clyde uses a physical but balanced offense, which averages 189 yards per game on the ground and 186 yards through the air. Running back Michael Daniels, who rushed 40 times for 270 yards and three touchdowns against Shelby, has totaled 1,330 yards and 21 scores on 264 carries while quarterback Jaden Cook has completed 148-of-227 passes for 2,182 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. His favorite target has been Brady Wilson (45-864 yards, six touchdowns).

“I think a lot of the credit goes to our offensive line,” Clyde head coach Ryan Carter said. “Michael has run the ball very well for us all year and I think staying as balanced as possible has been key for us.”

“Clyde is similar to Wapak in that they want to use a lot of different formations to find a way to outnumber you in the run game,” Recker said. “Their running back is a load at over 200 pounds, they have a good line that creates movement at the line of scrimmage and they have nice athletes on the outside that can create big plays.”

Meanwhile, the Fliers can be termed as stingy on defense, giving up just 70 yards rushing per game (2.5 yards per carry) and 153 yards passing per game while intercepting 18 passes.

“We’ve been very fortunate this year in the turnover department,” Carter said. “We have forced a number of turnovers and knock on wood, we haven’t turned it over a whole bunch so if you can do that, you’re going to give yourself a chance.”

“Their defensive line does a nice job at putting pressure on the quarterback, especially Remington Norman, who has 15.5 sacks on the season,” Recker said. “Offensively we have to do a great job blocking their defensive line and linebackers to create run lanes. Our receivers have to win their 1-on-1 matchups if Clyde plays man coverage.”

Aidan Pratt has competed 229-of-305 passes for 2,982 yards, 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Maddix Crutchfield continues to lead the team in receptions with 71 for 739 yards and seven touchdowns while Connor Pratt has a team high 946 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 61 catches. Garett Gunter has added 694 yards and seven scores on 37 receptions.

The junior quarterback leads the ground game with 1,076 yards and 16 touchdowns on 145 carries, followed by Nate Jackson (131-805, 17 touchdowns).

“They do a great job and you can see that on film when you watch them,” Carter said. “They play extremely hard and they’re always assignment-sound, they’re in the right spots and they have great athletes. To graduate what they did last year and then to turn around and have another great season this year speaks volumes of what they can do.”

“We know we have our work cut out for us against a great football team and a great program,” Carter added.

Friday’s Van Wert vs. Clyde game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM. The winner of the game will play Port Clinton or Perkins in next Friday’s regional title game.

POSTED: 11/10/21 at 4:54 am. FILED UNDER: Sports