Cindy Wood/Times Bulletin
Van Wert’s Corey Clifton (3) drops back to pass during the Cougars’ game with Celina on Friday, Sept. 25, in Van Wert.
Cindy Wood/Times Bulletin Van Wert’s Corey Clifton (3) drops back to pass during the Cougars’ game with Celina on Friday, Sept. 25, in Van Wert.

Times Bulletin Correspondent

The rain came down - and the score went up for Van Wert in a 38-0 thrashing of the Celina Bulldogs at Eggerss Stadium Friday evening.

Allthough the game started a bit sluggish for both teams, Van Wert heated up in the second quarter behind the legs and speed of Connor Massillo, who had a career night with 210 rushing yards and 3 touchdown runs of 38, 51 and 52 yards.

Even though the timeclock wasn't running last night, the Cougars were. Van Wert Head Coach Bob Priest said that was the game plan, and the Cougars played it out well, running for a total of 426 yards on the ground. Massillo was assisted in the ground game by quarterback Corey Clifton's 78 rushing yards and Sam Tindall's 37 yards on the ground.

Through the air, Clifton completed four passes in 12 attempts for 70 yards. Despite the fierce ground attack, Priest said the Cougars will be working on their passing game in anticipation of next week's match-up with the always tough Defiance Bulldogs.

"Obviously our game plan was to come in and run the football, and we did extremely well with that," Priest said following Friday evening's win. "But we need to do a little better on the passing game. Defiance is a tough opponent and I heard they got a pretty big win tonight, so we'll treat it just like we did this game and we'll go after it."

Defensively, Van Wert went after Celina all night long, keeping pressure on quarterback Ryan Paulus. Despite the constant harassment, Paulus still managed to rack up 223 passing yards, most of those coming in the first half, on a 15 of 22 night. Van Wert's Tony "Mr. Sack" Black ended the game with four sacks, while Cory Hirschy put up the Cougar's first two points of the night with a safety.

"You know when you get a shut-out in the Western Buckeye League you're doing something right," Priest said of the Cougar's defensive effort. "We not only got the shut out, but our defense scored two points as well. They bent but didn't break. You know, I don't care if that other team goes ninety-nine yards as long as we don't let them into the end zone, and we kept them out of it tonight."

The Cougar's scoring extravaganza began with Hirschy's safety early in the second quarter, and continued from there. Massillo's 52-yard touchdown score put the Cougars up 8-0, and a successful 2-point conversion pass from Clifton to Evan Hammons put the home team up by 10. Just a few minutes later, Massillo found a hole again and was off to the races for his next score, a 38-yard run. Gyer Blackmore's kick split the upright and Van Wert was up 17-0.

Massillo added his final score of the evening just into the second half, a 51-yard run, and Blackmore's kick was good, pushing Van Wert up 24-0. Clifton found Hammons in the endzone on a 21-yard touchdown pass and Blackmore's kick was good, making it 31-0.

The Cougars drove home the win with a 66-yard run from Austin Fleming, who took the snaps late in the game for Van Wert. Top receivers for Van Wert were Fleming and Hammons with 34 and 30 yards respectively. For Celina, Steffan Miller had 25 receiving yards, while Kahl Knapke caught 9 receptions for 145 yards. Van Wert produced 496 yards of total offense, while Celina had 256.

Celina's top rushers were Andy Sutter and Zach Hellwarth with 32 and 25 yards respectively. Van Wert had 19 first downs in the game, while Celina managed only 9. Van Wert coughed the ball up twice, and lost possession both times. Van Wert was penalized 13 times for a total of 100 penalty yards in the game.

The Cougars are on a roll as of late, and just secured their third consecutive win in the Western Buckeye League. Van Wert enters next week's game with Defiance with an evenly-matched 3-2 record. Priest said the teams match up well on paper.

"We've both lost to very comparable opponents, and overall, I think we're two pretty evenly-matched football teams," he said. "You know, our guys did a great job tonight, and Cory was getting a lot of good reads and we'll need that from him next week. Around 40 percent of our plays are actually called by Cory on the line based on what he sees, and we trust him to make the right calls, and he did that tonight."

Van Wert will travel to Defiance next week to take on former long-time Van Wert coach Jerry Buti's Bulldogs.