Cougars visit Ottawa-Glandorf with victory in mind
Thursday, September 04, 2014 12:00 AM
BY JOHN PARENT
Van Wert’s Nick Krugh (25) carries the ball during the week one loss to Bryan. Head coach Keith Recker says the Cougars will show a new ground attack this week at O-G. (DHI Media/Jerry Mason)
DHI Media Sports Editor
VAN WERT — After what was perhaps the most gut-wrenching loss of Keith Recker’s tenure as Van Wert’s head football coach, the Cougars get no time to feel sorry for themselves. Van Wert opens Western Buckeye League play at Ottawa-Glandorf on Friday night with a chance to break into the win column for the first time this year.
“If we weren’t where we were the past couple of years, and things were really bad, I think it (a close loss to Bryan) gives the team more hope for the next game instead of it being a let down,” Recker said of his team’s mindset coming into week two. “We put so much effort into that game (against Bryan), but it almost justifies that we are that close, we are right there, we are a different team, and I think it makes them even more excited. I told them after the game, I can’t wait to get on that bus to Ottawa because of what they’ve shown - the toughness, the resiliency.”
In order to take down the Titans, Van Wert’s defense must play every bit as well as they did in last week’s loss to Bryan. The Cougars held the Golden Bears to just 18 points. While Bryan amassed 310 total yards, the Bears averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and completed only 45 percent of their passes.
“We’ve really worked hard on the passing game (defensively) this week. I really like where we’re at against the run,” Recker explained. “If we can get guys to the ball like we’ve been doing, and be assignment-sound, I think we’ll be okay.”
The Titans are typically a run-first team under head coach Ken Schriner, who was disappointed that his club only gained 131 rushing yards in last week’s 34-17 win at Oak Harbor. “We’ve got to run the ball better than that. That’s something we’re going to challenge our kids to do,” Schriner told DHI Media after his team’s win.
In contrast, Ottawa-Glandorf excelled through the air, where quarterback Zac Unterbrink completed 18 of 30 attempts for 253 yards and three touchdowns. He was also intercepted once. The Cougars forced three turnovers against Bryan, something they must continue to do well on Friday in Putnam County.
“Against a team that wants to run the ball, and we want to run the ball, there’s going to be something in there that wins it for you, and turnovers would be the big thing,” Recker said. “And for us, field position (is critical). If we can get them backed up a little bit, and force a turnover where we’ve got a short field to look at, that would be huge for us - to play on their side of the field.”
While the Cougar defense was impressive throughout the game last weekend, the offense sputtered after halftime, largely due to an ineffective ground game. Van Wert managed just 52 yards on the ground versus Bryan.
“What were were doing hasn’t been working,” Recker conceded of his team’s rushing attack. “We tried tried through three scrimmages, thought we had it where we wanted it, and we came out in the first game and it’s not. The things we’re doing aren’t matching with the (strengths of the) guys we have.”
The Cougars may find the sledding a bit easier versus O-G, as the Titans allowed over 200 rushing yards to Oak Harbor and gave up nearly six yards per carry. Recker is taking no chances, however, implementing a new vision with his running game.
“Instead of some of gap schemes that we were doing, we’re really focusing on one or two run schemes where we can go straight ahead and get a body on a body, and use our size and strength to our advantage,” Recker said. “I keep telling our offensive linemen ‘we’re one first down from being 1-0 right now.’ If we get one first down late (against Bryan), we win that game. That’s how we’re challenging them (the offensive line). We’re going to win or lose with them. We’ve got to get a lot better (in the running game), and they’ve really bought into it.”
While a loss to open the season is disappointing, Van Wert showed itself to be a different team in 2014, at least through one game. Close losses are still losses, however, but if the Cougars can win one of these tight games against a team that’s favored to beat them, things may change in a hurry in Van Wert.
“I think so, because then they’ll get a feel of it. Getting that win and really justifying everything that we’re telling them about how much better of a team we are - to get that result, I think would be huge,” Recker added. “I think it can snowball. I think there are some games on our schedule where we can be very competitive and win, but we’ve got to get that elusive first one, get that out of the way so we understand how to win and that we can win.”