The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

In a normal year, this weekend would mark the end of the 2020 Ohio high school football regular season but as we all know, 2020 is anything but normal.

Instead, it’s Week. No. 4 of the postseason and the playoff field continues to dwindle, while a number of area schools have opted to continue playing regular season games. 

This week’s schedule features some intriguing playoff games in various regions, plus some hastily assembled regular season matchups. 

Last week, I was 15-2, which takes my overall record to 133-34. Barring any last minute cancellations, 18 games are on tap this weekend. 

Playoff games

Crestview (6-2) at Lima Central Catholic (6-1)

Apparently I’ve been correct with every Crestview game pick this season, and while I’m not thrilled about the idea of picking against the Knights, I think I’m going to have to go with the Thunderbirds and hope that I’m wrong.

Yes, I know Crestview has been playing good football and I realize Lima Central Catholic isn’t at full strength, but the Thunderbirds appear to be a plug-and-play type of team. 

Here’s hoping I’m wrong this week.

The pick: Lima Central Catholic

Van Wert (7-1) at Bellevue (8-0)

I’ve agonized over this Division IV regional semifinal game, because I truly think it can go either way. 

I covered Bellevue for many years so I’d like to think I know something about their program and how they do things, which is top notch all around. 

I do think Van Wert will be able to move the ball, but the key will be getting Bellevue’s offense off the field. The Redmen don’t necessarily do anything fancy, but they do execute very well. It’s a quarterback-run heavy offense and they’re content to grind out long, time-consuming drives. 

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POSTED: 10/29/20 at 3:54 am. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

Something will have to give when Van Wert and Bellevue meet in the Division IV Region 14 semifinals on Saturday night.

The fifth-seeded Cougars (7-1) enter the game averaging 40.7 points and and 445.7 yards per game, while No. 1 seed Bellevue (8-0) yields only 9.8 points and 186.7 total yards per game. The Redmen haven’t given up more than 15 points in any game this season.

Van Wert advanced to Saturday’s game by defeating Keystone 38-27. The Cougars trailed 21-19 at halftime but enjoyed a 19-6 scoring advantage in the second half.

Nate Jackson has scored 13 touchdowns for the Cougars. Photo courtesy of Jerry Mason

“We talked a lot about when the ‘bullets start to fly,’ that is when it is time to go to work,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “Keystone made some plays, the field conditions weren’t great, it was a long trip, and through all of that our guys continued to push forward and that attitude to persevere through it all paid off for them on Saturday.”

Now, the toughest challenge of the season awaits.

Bellevue is ranked No. 4 in Division IV in the final Associated Press poll of the season and while longtime head coach Ed Nasonti (30th season) is pleased with his defense, which has held opponents to seven or less points in four games, he noted that unit has received a big boost from the offense.

“On top of the fact that our defense has been playing outstanding, we’ve had three or four games this year where our offense has had 34 minutes of time of possession, so when the other team is getting 13 or 14 minutes, the defense isn’t on the field much,” Nasonti explained.

During Saturday’s 56-15 win over Kenton, the Redmen rolled up 501 yards of offense, including 406 on the ground. Bellevue led 22-15 at halftime, then simply wore down the Wildcats in the second half. Along with 95 yards and a passing touchdown, quarterback Keegan Ray finished with 31 carries for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and Max Ray ran for 142 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

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POSTED: 10/27/20 at 9:14 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

Even though Lima Central Catholic will be missing a key player, it’s fair to say Friday’s Division VII Region 26 semifinal game will be the toughest test of the year for the Crestview Knights.

The Thunderbirds (6-1) enter the game as the top overall seed in Region 26 and the fourth ranked team in the final Associated Press Division VII poll. Even more impressive is the fact that Lima Central Catholic played a schedule featuring teams with a combined record of 40-18. The only loss of the season came in Week No. 3, 47-28, to Liberty-Benton, a team that finished ranked No. 8 in Division V.

Brody Brecht has rushed for 1,574 yards and 18 touchdowns. Bob Barnes photo

“It is nice to face high level opponents in the regular season to get you ready for the playoffs,” head coach Scott Palte said. “It gives your kids a perspective on the high level of play that you must be playing at to be successful in the postseason and be able to beat good teams.”

Palte and the Thunderbirds will be without running back Shaun Thomas, who’s out with a broken foot. Before the injury, the 6-0, 190 pound senior had 80 carries for 849 yards and 16 touchdowns, plus a team-high 14 receptions for 270 yards and three more scores. He’s also Lima Central Catholic’s all-time leading rusher and scorer.

Junior Quintel Peoples (5-8, 155) will step in at running back. So far, he has 33 carries for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Crestview head coach Jared Owens doesn’t expect much of a drop off.

“LCC in all phases of the game plays aggressively,” Owens said. “They have athletic and physical players, their coaching staff is excellent and they have a great program.”

“I would describe us as very athletic and aggressive, Palte said. “We like to attack on offense and defense. We are blessed with some tremendous athletes and we try to get them in spots on the field where they can be successful on offense and defense. We like to try to be as balanced as possible on the offensive side and blitz and attack on defense.”

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POSTED: 10/27/20 at 9:14 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

FORT RECOVERY — In a matchup of two top 10 volleyball teams, No. 6 Fort Recovery ended No. 9 Lincolnview’s season 25-22, 25-13, 20-25, 25-16 in the Division IV district semifinals on Tuesday night.

The Lady Lancers (20-3) were the only non-MAC school at the loaded district.

“Fort Recovery was a powerful team,” Lincolnview head coach JaNahn Evans said. “With the weapons they had, we knew our defense had to be on point and ready. I felt we made too many errors with our serving and passing. You can’t make many errors playing a team like that.”

“I was proud of the girls for competing tonight,” Evans added. “We battled a tough team and never gave up.”

Kendall Bollenbacher and McKayla Blankemeyer had 14 and 10 kills for Lincolnview, and Madison Williams added six. Elaina O’Neill had a team leading 10 digs, followed by Williams (nine), and eight each by Bollenbacher and Zadria King. Bri Ebel finished with 33 assists.

The loss marked the end for four Lincolnview seniors – Ebel, Williams, O’Neill and Sami Sellers.

“We have four amazing seniors and will miss them on and off the court,” Evans said of the group. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to coach them throughout their high school years and wish them all the best.”

Fort Recovery, the top seed in the district, will face No. 2 seed Marion Local in the district championship on Thursday. The Lady Flyers topped St. Henry in straight sets on Tuesday night.

POSTED: 10/27/20 at 9:13 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports

VW independent sports/submitted information

COLUMBUS — Notable changes are in store for Ohio High School Athletic High School regional football finals, state semi-final and finals football games, along with the state volleyball tournament and state cross country.

Football regional finals, state games

According to a press release issued Tuesday afternoon by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, instead of the usual format of all neutral sites, regional championship football games may be played at the better-seeded team’s stadium or at a different site of their choosing. Division I regional finals are this Friday, October 30, while regional finals for Divisions II through VII are November 6-7.

Later this week, the OHSAA will announce how the regions will be paired for the Division I state semifinal games and next week, the OHSAA will announce how the regions will be paired for the state semifinals in Divisions II through VII.

The OHSAA will select neutral sites for the state semifinal games and the state championship games. Sites will be announced as soon as possible. Of note, many traditional host sites are not available to serve as neutral sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State volleyball tournament

The upcoming volleyball state tournament will take a hiatus from the Nutter Center at Wright State University and be hosted by Vandalia Butler High School. In addition, the event will move to a Friday-Saturday-Sunday format (November 13-15). School will not be in session at Butler High School that Friday.

“We are very thankful that Butler High School stepped forward to host our volleyball state tournament,” said Emily Gates, OHSAA Director of Sport Management and the volleyball administrator. “We look forward to our return to Wright State University in the future, but with the small number of fans who can attend this year, we needed to find a smaller venue that was still an exceptional site.”

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POSTED: 10/27/20 at 3:11 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

Best wishes, Van Wert-Bellevue II, Crestview, OSU vs. Rutgers and Baker Mayfield are among this week’s Random Thoughts.

Good luck

Best of luck to the Lincolnview Lady Lancers in tonight’s Division IV district semifinal volleyball match against Fort Recovery.

Good luck as well to Crestview and Van Wert in their playoff football games and good luck to Crestview, Lincolnview and Van Wert cross country runners competing at Saturday’s regional meet at Tiffin.

Van Wert-Bellevue Part II

Saturday’s game will be the second time Van Wert and Bellevue have met in the playoffs.

They played at Findlay’s Donnell Stadium in 2000 and the Cougars won 35-21. I broadcast that game and vaguely remember it.

This time, the two will square off at Bellevue, a tough place for visiting teams to win. It’s a nice facility with turf and it seats about 4,000. In a normal year, this game would be played at a neutral site (perhaps Findlay again), but this obviously isn’t a normal year. ‘

Check Wednesday’s Sports page for a game preview, but I’ll say this now: this will be the best defense Van Wert has faced this season.

Crestview

Crestview’s biggest test of the season will be this Friday.

The Knights are on a roll, but they’ll need to play their best game of the season to defeat Lima Central Catholic, a team ranked No. * in Division VII.

The Thunderbirds are the favorite but Crestview is very capable of making things very interesting.

No. 4

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POSTED: 10/27/20 at 9:36 am. FILED UNDER: Sports

Over the weekend, runners from the Lincolnview Middle School Run Club participated in the Ohio Cross Country State Championships. The seventh and eighth grade Lady Lancers were runner-up in the Division III Gold Division. Pictured above are (left to right): Lindsey Hatcher, Elyssa Renner, Kendall Hoffman, Harper Reindel, Brynleigh Moody, Keira Breese, Olivia Snyder, Kendall Coil, Lainey Spear and Sylvia Longstreth. The boys placed fourth in the Division III Gold Division. Pictured below are (left to right): John Welker, Evan Johns, Kreston Tow, Tennesy Coil, Trace Klausing, Myles Moody, Wyatt Polley. Zander Coil also participated in the sixth grade and under, 2-mile race, and finished 56th out of 160 runners. Photos submitted

POSTED: 10/27/20 at 3:51 am. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

This week’s Monday Mailbag features questions about Van Wert’s next playoff game, football regional final sites, Ohio State football and the start of high school basketball.

Q: What are Van Wert’s chances against Bellevue on Saturday? Is this a winnable game for the Cougars? Name withheld upon request

A: The Cougars will have their hands full with No. 1 seed Bellevue but I do believe this team is capable of getting a win there. The Redmen don’t make mistakes, so it’ll take Van Wert’s best game of the year to win it.

Q: When will OHSAA announce where football regional final sites will be? Name withheld upon request

A: I’m under the impression that the higher seed will host regional championship games, but if it’s neutral sites are going to be used, the Ohio High School Athletic Association will have to make that announcement soon.

Q: After watching Saturday’s game against Nebraska, am I alone in thinking Ohio State is overrated? Name withheld upon request

A: I don’t know if I’d use the term overrated, but there are a couple of potential trouble spots, at least early on.

The defense lost a lot of talent to the NFL and really seemed to struggle against the run at times against the Cornhuskers. I’m hoping to see improvement each week.

I know it’s just one game, but run blocking by the offensive line is also a concern. The Buckeyes were in third-and-one on more than one occasion and couldn’t covert. That takes me back to two years ago, when Ohio State struggled to consistently run the ball.

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POSTED: 10/26/20 at 3:53 am. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

LAGRANGE — Owen Treece fired three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores to lead No. 5 seed Van Wert to a come-from-behind 38-27 Division IV Region 14 quarterfinal win over fourth-seeded Keystone on Saturday night.

It was Keystone’s first loss of the year (7-1), while the Cougars improved to 7-1 to advance to the regional semifinals against Bellevue.

Owen Treece accounted for five touchdowns against Keyestone. Bob Barnes/file photo

Two of Treece’s touchdown passes went to Maddix Crutchfield, but a third quarter scramble by the senior quarterback likely saved the season for the Cougars. Trailing 21-19 and facing fourth and sixth at the Keystone 14, Treece was unable to find an open receiver and took off for 13 yards and a first down. One play later, he scored on a one-yard run to put Van Wert ahead 25-21.

“To convert that fourth and sixth and take the lead…I can’t say enough about how much fight he showed on a lot of plays like that,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “When we needed a play he was able to break some tackles, get loose and make it happen.”

Treece tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Crutchfield later in the quarter, then added a four yard touchdown run in the final quarter to seal the victory for the Cougars (7-1). Treece finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and was 20-of-28 passing for 198 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

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POSTED: 10/25/20 at 12:56 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

OTTAWA — Van Wert boys’ and girls’ cross country teams are regional-bound in Division II, along with the Lincolnview Lancers, the Crestview Knights and the Lady Knights in Division III. The Lady Lancers have two runners who will compete in Saturday’s regional competition in Tiffin.

Division II

Hunter Sherer and Asanke Steyer helped lead the Cougars to a second place team finish and a spot in Saturday’s regional meet at Hedges Boyer Park in Tiffin.

Sherer placed fourth overall with a time of 16:42, while Steyer finished sixth (16:42). Gage Wannemacher logged a 12th place finish (16:50), followed by Jacob Wasson (24th, 17:23) and Gage Springer (32nd, 17:42).

Wauseon finished as the team champion with 73 points, while Van Wert had 78 points to edge Defiance (81). 14 teams competed at the meet.

The Lady Cougars punched their ticket to Saturday’s regional with a third place finish.

Tyra McClain and Kyra Welch were Van Wert’s top two runners, finishing 11th and 14th with times of 20:56 and 21:10. Freshman teammate Tayler Carter finished 19th overall (21:31), and Carly Smith and Rachel Spath finished 24th and 25th, running the course in 21:46 and 21:47.

“We’re advancing and at the end of the day that’s the goal,” Van Wert head coach Ryan Holliday said. “The good news is we still have room to improve on both sides. We’re not going to do a bunch of things different in preparation or in how we race on Saturday. We are confident in our approach and who we are, but being better versions of ourselves will be the key.”

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POSTED: 10/25/20 at 12:56 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports