The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Sep. 29, 2023

Preview: 1-5 Shawnee at 5-1 Van Wert

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

No. 5 Van Wert went 2-1 during “the gauntlet” – with wins over St. Marys Memorial and Ottawa-Glandorf, and a one point loss to Wapakoneta. Now, the Cougars will return to Eggerss Stadium for homecoming and a Shawnee team that hangs its hat on defense.

Last week’s game against Ottawa-Glandorf was anything but easy. The Titans pulled to within one, 17-16, late in the third quarter, but the Cougars scored the game’s final two touchdowns to cement a 31-16 win.

Aidan Pratt is among the national leaders in passing yards. Photo courtesy of Jerry Mason

“I was very pleased to see us win a game in a different manner than we’ve done before,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “We had about 500 yards of offense but we had to earn those yards through the run game and by taking underneath throws and being patient for the big plays. Brylen (Parker) got the chance to run the ball a little more and showed how tough a runner he is.”

“Our energy on Thursday at practice and Friday at halftime was as good as it has been since I’ve started coaching here,” the coach added. “I love the passion some of our guys are displaying while at football.”

Aidan Pratt threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a season high 121 yards on 15 carries. Unofficially, Pratt is 12th in the entire nation in passing yards so far this season, with 1,885 yards. The 6-4 senior has 123-of-168 passes and has 19 touchdown passes, compared to just two interceptions. He’s directing an offense that currently averages 458 yards and 44 points per game, and will face a Shawnee defense that allows 259 yards per game, including just 103 yards per game through the air, second among all Western Buckeye League teams. In addition, the Indians have allowed just three touchdown passes all season.

“Defensively they can switch between a four and three man front, so recognizing what we are getting will be very important,” Recker said.

Offense has been a challenge for the Indians (1-5, 1-4 WBL), who are averaging roughly 225 total yards and nine points per outing.

“Shawnee has good size and athleticism on both sides of the ball,” Recker said. “They had an injury with their quarterback and replaced him with their running back and he is a tough runner. They fire off the ball well on both sides of the ball as well. They have the ability to bring a lot of formations and unbalanced lines with a run game that can get extra pullers and blockers at the point of attack.”

Ashton Baer has taken the team lead in tackles with 49, and the senior defensive back has intercepted a pair of passes. Carson Smith and Damon McCracken have 43 and 42 tackles. The Cougars are +7 in the giveway/takeway ratio.

Homecoming week brings a lot of extras outside of the normal routine, but Recker is confident his team will remain focused throughout the week.

“I think homecoming week is a fun and exciting time for our community, school, and team,” he stated. “It comes at a great time, around mid-season, when having a small change of routine can keep you on your toes and force a little extra focus. I want our guys to really enjoy the week and have a great time playing football for our community on Friday night.”

Shawnee head coach Jerry Cooper did not respond to a request for comments for this preview.

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

POSTED: 09/28/22 at 3:53 am. FILED UNDER: Sports