Van Wert’s Joey Moreland (23) and Chris Miller (2) bring down a Celina ball carrier in a game at Celina last Friday. The Cougars return home to host Defiance Friday on Homecoming. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
BY BRIAN BASSETT
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT - After two weeks on the road, and two tough conference losses, the Van Wert Cougar football team (0-6) is ready to return to the friendly confines of Eggerss Stadium this Friday, where they host the Defiance Bulldogs (2-4) on Homecoming.
The Cougars come off a 47-7 loss at Celina last week, and face a similar offense in Defiance.The Bulldogs boast the sixth best offense in the Western Buckeye League, amassing 339 yards per game (240 passing, 99 rushing).
Defiance is led by quarterback Joe Keween, who is third in the league in almost every major passing category. Keween has completed 101 of 197 passes (51 percent) for 1,408 yards. He has thrown 11 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.
"They have a nice quarterback. I don't think he gets the same publicity as some of the other ones, but he's done a nice job. He's a decent athlete, throws a nice ball, and just does a good job back there for them," said Van Wert coach Keith Recker of Keween.
The Bulldogs can also run the ball as well, leaning on leading rusher Dom Romero, who has carried 61 times for 262 yards (43.7 per game) and four touchdowns. Trey Guilliam is the Bulldogs' leading receiver, and second in the league. He has 39 receptions for 548 yards and three touchdowns.
"They've got some decent athletes at receiver and running back, and a nice-sized line. While they're nothing spectacular to watch,
" I think they're really solid on what they do with both the pass and run," explained Recker.
The Cougar coach said the key to slowing the Defiance offense is to show multiple fronts. "Their passing formation will be two-by-two, so we (have to) make sure we align so we can be sound against the pass.
"They'll be under center running the ball, they'll bring in a big defensive tackle at fullback and run the ball to his side. We're going to put more guys on the line and make sure we're packing the box."
The Bulldogs offense averages 29 points per game, and the Cougar defense gives up 40.2 points per game. Van Wert has the second to lowest total team defense in the league, giving up 416.7 yards per game (155 rushing, 261 passing).
The Cougar offense expects the Bulldogs to load the box and play man coverage. "Definitely they're going to put a bunch of guys in the box. We're really going to have to, as much as we can, run the ball. But we're going to mix it up. We've got to be sound, besides running the ball we've got to make sure we're sound in our pass protection," Recker said.
Van Wert is last in total team offense, racking up only 126.5 yards per game. They rush for just under 50 yards per game, and pass for 77. The Cougars average 5.7 points per game.
Defiance has, statistically, the worst defense in the league, however. They allow 465.5 yards per game, and 40 points per game. They allow 293 yards rushing a game, and 172.6 passing.
Van Wert's top offensive player is junior quarterback Tyler Williams. Williams has completed 39 of 93 pass attempts (40.6 percent) for 460 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Fortunately, the Cougars will be in front of a home crowd after a two-week hiatus. To add to the excitement is Homecoming, and Recker is happy to see his players participate in the week's festivities.
"I think it's great. When (the kids) are out of Van Wert High School and on to other things, this is going to be a week they remember. I want them to have fun with it. They were out there today at the Powder Puff (game) as cheer leaders and the mock homecoming court."
The Van Wert coach also has to keep his team's concentration on the game, however. "I try to bring their focus back in and make them understand that with all of this going on, the Powder Puff, the parade - everything that's going on around them - that there's still one central thing that everybody comes together on Homecoming for, and that's the varsity football game."
Despite being 0-6, the team is still working hard to improve and get a win. "Really what we're focusing on now is improving. We have got to get better every practice and every game until we see that improvement... If we can have some great performances by guys who are capable of that, and we leave the stadium playing our best, then we're going to have a great chance to win the game," added Recker.
NOTES: The teams have two common opponents, Celina and Bath. Van Wert lost 47-17 to Celina, and Defiance fell 35-28 to Celina. Defiance beat Bath 42-32, and the Cougars fell to Bath 33-7. Senior lineman Terrin Contreras is out indefinitely with a leg injury for the Cougars, and lineman Steve Barnhart will return to the team next week after battling mono. Other WBL games Friday: Kenton (4-2) at Bath (4-2), Elida (5-1) at O-G (6-0), Wapak (3-3) at St. Marys (0-6), and Shawnee (1-5) at Celina (5-1).