Van Wert senior Terrance Branson looks for open field versus Bath. (Times Bulletin file photo)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT - It seems hard to imagine that a team that remains winless on the season could have looked past any opponent, but that might just be what happened to Van Wert in their Homecoming week loss to the Bath Wildcats last Friday.
"It's unbelievable to say, but were we almost too over-confident?" wondered Cougars head coach Keith Recker as he reflected on last week's 27-13 loss. "For us, that shouldn't be the case, but it kind of seemed like it was. There was no sense of urgency on offense or defense. It wasn't that we did things poorly, it was more than we just lacked energy and enthusiasm."
"We have to understand that there is nobody that we're going to blow out," continued Recker. "We have to come out with a lot more fire and a lot more focus."
That focus will be tested this week as the Cougars welcome Western Buckeye League rival Celina to Eggerss Stadium. The Bulldogs are fresh off a 49-23 victory over St. Mary's and roll into Van Wert with a 5-1 overall record including a 4-1 mark in conference action.
Celina is second in the league in total offense, thanks to a balanced attack that sees them complete nearly 68 percent of attempted passes. Though there is little doubt of Celina's ability to throw it, Recker knows the book is out on how to attack the Cougar defense.
"I expect them to be physical with us," noted Recker."They have a sophomore quarterback that throws a nice ball, but when they've really gotten things going, it's been with their run game. We expect them to come out and try to push us around a little bit."Van Wert has allowed an average of 225 yards per game on the ground this season.
"Stopping the run will be a big key for us, we've given up drive after drive and we know they have some big time athletes outside that we'll have to match up with, but those guys don't really matter if we can't do our job up front."
Though Van Wert comes in at 0-6 overall and 0-5 in the WBL, Celina has allowed some of their lesser opponents to hang around in games this season. The Bulldogs trailed in the third quarter to winless St. Mary's and went to halftime tied with Bath before pulling away to win both games late.
If the Cougars have any intention of claiming their first win of 2013 this weekend, they'll need to ambush the Bulldogs with early offense and an opportunistic defensive effort as well.
"I feel good going in," noted Recker on how his team has prepared this week. "There has only been one week this year where we were just over-matched and that was the Kenton game. (Celina) just expects to win because they've done it so much over the past two or three years and that's where they have that edge. We almost just need to win a game like this, a game that no one expects us to win, in order to start to gain that confidence and really get the ball rolling for us."
Van Wert played Kenton to even in the second half. They held a halftime lead at Shawnee and put up more than 400 yards on Elida with a chance to tie late in that game. There have been flashes of what this team can be capable of when they are playing well.
In order to come up with victory at home on Friday night, however, the Cougars cannot afford any miscues.