Senior Terrence Branson takes the handoff on a jet sweep for Van Wert versus Defiance. Branson and his classmates will be playing their final home game on Friday. (Times Bulletin file photo)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT - Van Wert will say goodbye to six seniors who will be playing their final home game at Eggerss Stadium on Friday night when the Cougars host Western Buckeye League power Wapakoneta.
It's been a difficult ride for the senior class at Van Wert, a group who has seen a total of six wins over their high school careers. Five of those came when Michael Smelser, Tyler Priest, Terrence Branson, Zach Thomas, Jacob Braun and Anthony Duckworth were freshmen.
After a winless 2011 season, The Cougars won a single game last year, the first under head coach Keith Recker. Van Wert is still looking for their first victory of the 2013 campaign.
"These six have stuck with it," noted Recker about the six out-going players. "Last year we had a couple that bailed out going into their senior years but these six stuck with it knowing that it was going to still be tough. Better times are ahead, but we knew it was going to be tough yet this year."
"Not only have they worked hard, but the biggest things is that they've kept a positive attitude and came in everyday to give the effort. I can never thank them enough for that," added the Cougar coach. "It's been as fun as it can be with losing that many game. We enjoy being around each other and I think it's because of the attitude they bring and how they set the tone for everybody else."Wapak comes to town boasting a 7-1 record overall with their only defeat coming at the hands of Kenton. The Redskins do one thing better than anyone else in the league and that's run the football. It also happens to be the thing that Van Wert has struggled to stop this season.
"They just play so physical. They give great effort all the time and they're coming right at you," noted Recker. "I think there was one game that they threw, like, three passes, so they're going to run it at you. They get off the ball well and they're gonna make you stop them. And no team besides Kenton has been able to do that yet."
"Offensively, a lot goes through their fullback, who is big and athletic, just a real good player. They got some other good athletes in the backfield that , if you fall asleep, can get loose on you."
"They can go 20, 25 plays of straight run and then they throw a pass and your defense fall asleep and they wind up with a big play," Recker said. "We've got to be awake defensively."
If the Cougars are going to keep this one close, they'll need a big day from their offense, which showed what they could do in a 49-35 loss to Defiance last week. The Cougars have shown glimpses this season of brilliant play, especially through the air and that's where they'll need to attack the Redskins on Friday.
"Defensively, Wapak is tops in the league in run defense, so if we're going to move the ball, just like we did against Elida and Defiance, it's going to have to come through the air," Recker offered.
"If we can move it through the air, we're going to have a good night offensively. We just haven't been able to sustain anything run-wise this year at all. I'd love to see us come out a little bit loose and move the ball a little bit at home."