Times Bulletin photo
Van Wert’s Nathan Williams runs around the end during the Cougars game against the Elida Bulldogs on Friday, Sept. 11, in Elida.
Times Bulletin photo Van Wert’s Nathan Williams runs around the end during the Cougars game against the Elida Bulldogs on Friday, Sept. 11, in Elida.
BY JIM COX

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

ELIDA - Elida's sophomore quarterback Reggie McAdams made big play after big play in the fourth quarter Friday night, but Van Wert's defense didn't let him have the one he needed. The result was a thrilling 21-17 Cougar victory. Van Wert is now 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the Western Buckeye League. The Bulldogs are 1-2 and 0-2.

Van Wert was hanging on to a 21-17 lead with 8:13 left in the game when Elida started on the Cougar 44-yard-line. On a big 4th and 6 from the Van Wert 40, McAdams hit Derik Long over the middle for a first down at the Cougar 31. Three plays later McAdams faced a 4th and 3 from the 24, but this time Van Wert was up to the task. McAdams' pass into the left flat to Derek Cunningham was complete but the Cougars nailed Cunningham in his tracks for no gain. That was Big Play Number 1.

On the first play after that, Van Wert's Connor Massillo busted through the right side for 25 yards to give the Cougs some breathing room at their own 49. From there, though, Van Wert went nowhere, and McAdams went to work again, this time from his own 33. Pass completions of 8, 10 and 34 yards, plus a McAdams run of four yards, got it all the way to the Van Wert 11 with 18 seconds left in the game. McAdams' pass into the end zone was well-covered, though - Big Play Number 2 - and Cougar fans breathed an audible sigh of relief.

The game started off as if it would be an offensive showcase. The passing of McAdams and the running of Shane Conrad took the ball 82 yards in 11 plays, and Conrad stuck it in the end zone from four yards out with 8:17 left in the first quarter. Austin Etzler's strong left leg provided the PAT to make it 7-0.

The Cougars quickly matched that, going 71 yards in five plays, capped by an 18-yard pass from quarterback Corey Clifton to tight end Austin Fleming with 6:23 remaining in the first. Gyer Blackmore's PAT kick barely cleared the bar to make it 7-7. Two other big plays in that drive were a 19-yard option pitch from Clifton to Massillo and a 30-yard crossing pattern completion, Clifton to Evan Hammons.

Right back came the Dogs with a 10-play, 53-yard drive, which ended with a 35-yard Etzler field goal - 10-7, Elida, with 1:51 still to go in the first period.

Van Wert's Nathan Williams' nifty 33-yard kickoff return put the Cougs on the 50, and five plays later they were in the end zone on a 4-yard run by Massillo. Blackmore's kick made it 14-10 with 11:35 left in the second period. Williams also caught a 26-yard pass during that scoring drive.

At that point, though, the defenses stiffened. Elida got one first down before Etzler boomed a 50-yard punt into the end zone. After a 15-yard gain by Clifton, he fumbled (the only Van Wert turnover in the game), but McAdams returned the favor by over-throwing his receiver and hitting Van Wert's Jacob Myers instead.

At that point, the Cougars went on an impressive drive, which would prove to be the game winner. The 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive included runs of 5 and 30 by Massillo, 7 and 9 by Clifton, and a 16-yard pass from Clifton to Williams. Fullback Donny Sites went the last two yards for the score, and Blackmore kicked the PAT - 21-10, Cougars, at 0:47.

To put their fans at ease, the Cougs needed a score and a stop to start the second half. They didn't get the score, going three-and-out. The teams then traded two more punts, with McAdams and Company taking over at their own 15. Eight plays later, McAdams faced a 4th and 3 from the Van Wert 29. He went for the end zone and got it, as Etzler out-fought the defender for a touchdown with 10:26 remaining in the game. Etzler made the PAT to cut the Van Wert lead to 21-17.

The Cougars then went three-and-out to set up the final dramatics.

McAdams hit on 20 of 34 passes for 231 yards, one TD and one interception. He also rushed for 65 yards on 16 carries.

Clifton was 7 of 12 passing for 119 yards, one TD and no interceptions. Massillo went for 104 yards on 13 carries.