The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022

Cougars aiming for another regional title

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

One thing is for certain entering Friday’s Division VI Region 14 championship game at Findlay’s Donnell Stadium – Port Clinton will field the biggest offensive line Van Wert has seen all season.

Aidan Pratt (15) and Nate Jackson (20) have combined for over 4,000 yards for the Cougars. Photo courtesy of Jerry Mason

The Redskins (12-1) boast a near NFL-sized line that goes 300, 245, 260, 300 and 320, along with a total of nine starters back from last year’s squad that Van Wert defeated 46-20 in the second round of the playoffs.

“When you pair that size with a very good running back and athletic wide receivers, along with a quarterback that does a great job at running their offense, it becomes apparent why they have had such a good year,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said.

The massive line has paved the way for an offense that averages 39 points and 323 total yards per game. Running back Garrett Cornell has led the way on the ground (1,027 yards, 13 touchdowns) and quarterback Cam Gillum has completed 147-of-217 passes for 2,180 yards, 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The athletic receivers mentioned by Recker are Tyler Webb (49-826, six touchdowns) and Josh Hurt (55-829, 18 touchdowns). In addition, Webb has rushed for 300 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries.

“Our quarterback has developed because of his confidence with the offensive line and his arm strength has greatly improved,” Port Clinton head coach Beau Carmon said. “The key to our success this season has been our health. We have low numbers (34 players, 10-12) and multiple kids that play on both sides of the ball so staying healthy has been a priority since the summer.”

The defense allows an average of 12 points per game and has pitched three shutout and three other games of seven or less.

“I really like the way they play their 3-4 defense, as their defensive line is very active and their linebackers do a great job of getting to the ball in the run game,” Recker said.

“This is the best defense I have had in the nine years I have been here,” Carmon said. “They need to show up against Van Wert or it will be a long night.”

Van Wert enters the game averaging 466 yards and 46 points per game. In the first quarter alone, the Cougars have outscored their opponents 220-41.

Aidan Pratt has completed 253-of-337 passes for 3,180 yards, 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Maddix Crutchfield has caught 82 of those passes for 795 yards and seven touchdowns while Connor Pratt is on the cusp of a 1,000 yard season (67-983, nine touchdowns). Garett Gunter has added 39 receptions for 715 yards and seven touchdowns.

Cam Gillum directs Port Clinton’s offense. Photo courtesy of Erin Caldwell/Sandusky Register

The junior quarterback leads the team in rushing (170-1,233, 18 touchdowns) while Nate Jackson 848 yards and 18 touchdowns on 148 carries. In addition, Brylen Parker has 10 touchdowns and 323 yards on just 45 carries.

“We have to slow down their offense,” Carmon said. “If this turns into a track meet we will not be in good shape. We can’t turn the ball over to such a talented team and we have to move the ball, even if we do not score. Field position will be key.”

While the offense has delivered throughout the season, the defense has quietly improved throughout the season and is currently yielding 262 yards, including just 123 passing yards per game, and 17 points per game.

“Our players do a great job trusting our scheme on defense,” Recker asid. “They understand we may give up some yards at times but when the field becomes condensed we do a great job of tightening up coverage and pursuing to the football. Our players do a great job of studying the opposing team’s offense during the week, so they understand what teams will run in critical situations, such as third downs and in the red zone, which allows them to play fast and be prepared for what play is coming, and that was definitely the case against Clyde.”

Recker also praised his team’s ability to enjoy the season but be ready to go when it’s time.

“During our team meeting on Monday there were a lot of laughs and jokes going around, and then when we start film and transition to the practice field our players are locked in and asking questions about the game plan,” the coach stated. “When you have the type of camaraderie that this group does paired with a relentless desire to get better, it makes it truly a pleasure to be able to coach. Our players task themselves with the same thing every week, which is to continue to get better each day and focus on the next game.”

Friday’s Van Wert/Port Clinton regional championship game will air live on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.

The winner will advance to next week’s state semifinals against the winner of Region 16, Clinton-Massie or Cincinnati McNicholas.

POSTED: 11/17/21 at 4:49 am. FILED UNDER: Sports