Van Wert senior tackle Andrew Todd drops back in pass protection for the Van Wert Cougars in a game against Defiance at Eggerss Stadium last Friday. The Cougars travel to Wapak this Friday to take on the Redskins. (Times Bulletin/Brian Bassett)
BY BRIAN BASSETT
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT - The Van Wert Cougar football team (0-6) had its best showing of the season in the rain last Friday against Defiance at Eggerss Stadium, losing 20-14.
The Cougars hope to carry some of that momentum into this Friday's contest, in which they travel to Wapak to take on the Redskins (4-3, 3-3).
"They're good. They lost quite a bit from last year. Watching them, they try to get to the ball fast. They're physical, they have good size, good skill kids," Van Wert coach Keith Recker described the Redskins, who come off a 14-0 win over St. Marys (0-6).
Unfortunately for the Redskins, they are without the services of senior quarterback Kyle Gibson, who was lost to injury in week six. Kodi Morgan has since stepped up to fill the hole left by Gibson's injury. He completed three of six pass attempts last week for 26 yards.
"They lost their quarterback against O-G, who is a really good player. But they brought in (Morgan). He's played some defense and he runs the ball pretty well," Recker explained.
Offensively, Wapak sits at fifth in the Western Buckeye League in total team offense, racking up 361 yards per game (219 rushing, 142 passing).
The Redskins are led by running back Jensen Merricle, who has rushed for 460 yards on 81 carries with no touchdowns. Even after sitting out last week, Gibson still accounts for 46 percent of the Redskin offense.
"Offensively, they definitely pose some problems with how quickly they get up to the ball and get going. They'll come right at you. Something we've been working on all week is making sure we get aligned correctly," Recker said.
Defensively, the Redskins are a typical, hard-nosed Wapak defense, explained Recker. "Defensively, they'll be a little bit different than what we faced the last couple of weeks. They'll press us, play some man. They're just physical and get to the ball. They've got some good size, good athletes who run to the ball pretty well."
The Redskin defense is fourth in the league in total defense, allowing 281 yards per game, and third in scoring defense, allowing 17.4 points per game. Their offense averages 25.3 points per game.
Offensively, the Cougars are near the bottom of the league in most categories, but have shown improvement throughout the season, especially last week.
"Junior receiver Chris Miller broke free for a pair of touchdown runs off the jet sweep last week, and Recker described that as the evolution of the offense.
"I think we've kind of evolved to where we're kind of going to go with this thing - as far as where we're going scheme-wise. Looking at our skill guys, we've got everyone back, and we've got to figure out how to get them the ball. That's something we were able to do with Chris running the jet sweep.
"That's something we'll continue to do as long as we have success with it. We'll keep working at different ways of how to impliment that," said Recker, who added the improvement the offense has had since moving junior quarterback Tyler Williams to the shotgun.
The Cougars are second to last in the league in total defense (409.3 yards per game), and last in scoring defense (37.3 points per game), but both of those margins have been shrinking.
Recker said the key to stopping the Redskins is to crowd the line to stop the running game.
"We're going to put some guys up on the line of scrimmage, try to stop them and try to make them one dimensional. We can cover okay if they're not going to be in a lot of empty stuff with their new quarterback. If they are, we can adjust... We've really got to be on the attack. We can't sit on our heels because they'll be up the sideline before we know it if we do."
The team's practices this week have been good, especially off the confidence the team got after playing Defiance so close.
"(Practice) has been good. (The kids) have really come out and had a good week. We shortened practice up just a little bit to try to get them to understand that we get out there, get our work, work hard and we'll be done. They've had a good week," Recker explained.