Nate Phillips of Van Wert catches a touchdown pass against Elida on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)
Nate Phillips of Van Wert catches a touchdown pass against Elida on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)

VAN WERT — Two early touchdowns and a 27-point second quarter helped the Cougars dispose of Elida 48-16 at Eggerss Stadium on Friday night. Van Wert is now 8-1 (7-1 WBL) while Elida falls to 4-5 (3-5 WBL) on the year.

To no one's surprise, Friday night's offensive explosion started and finished with Aidan Pratt who played his final regular season home game as a Cougar.

Pratt navigated the field with absolute brilliance again as he carved up the Bulldog defense for seven total touchdowns, five through the air and two on the ground. He finished the night 16 of 21 on passes for 274 yards and with six carries for 32 yards.

"It's hard to find words for how special he is on the football field at this point," said Recker. "There are so many coaches in the league and at the college level that are so impressed with what he's able to do. We're just so fortunate to have a guy like him."

Pratt began the night with a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter to put Van Wert ahead 14-0 about four minutes into the game.

First, he found Maddix Crutchfield who was all alone in the middle of the field for a 29-yard connection. Then, Pratt loaded up and fired a seed to Garrett Gunter who caught the ball below his waist, regained his footing an raced 77-yards to the endzone.

It was the third straight week that the Cougars held at least a two-score lead in the first half after starting slow against Ottawa-Glandorf in week six.

"Earlier in the season, it seems like we thought it would just happen to us since it's happened before," said Recker of his team's strong starts. "I think we've come out to start games with a much better mindset these last few weeks no matter who we're playing and where we are."

Elida scored once in the final minutes of the opening quarter on an 11-yard run by Ryan McGue, but in the second quarter, the flood gates officially opened.

Pratt ran one in from a yard out at the 10:53 mark, then a perfectly executed trick play put the rout on.

After Pratt received the snap, he handed the ball to Brylen Parker who reversed the ball to Conner Campbell. Campbell pitched the ball back to Pratt and he found Nate Phillips who made a leaping catch in the corner of the endzone on a 17-yard strike.

Phillips caught two touchdowns in the frame and went for 60 yards on five catches.

Campbell scored nearly a minute after the trick play on a 26-yard catch-and-run, and Phillips pulled down a 20-yard ball in the same spot of the endzone where he caught the aforementioned trick play.

Down 41-6, Elida put a half-closing drive together that ended in an impressive 42-yard field goal from Grant Hardeman.

With the running clock in motion, the third quarter came and went without points, but Pratt wasn't quite finished, as he scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it a 48-9 ballgame.

Elida also managed to find the endzone one last time on seven-yard pass from Ryan McGue to Tyler Dillon during the final seconds.

"We challenged ourselves to play at a high level tonight and we knew they were a little banged up coming into this one," said Recker. "Offensively I thought we mixed the run and the pass again, and defensively we were able to get stops. Overall, I thought we did a nice of playing at our level."

On offense the Cougars amassed 353 yards and held the Bulldogs to 266 total yards on the defensive side of the ball.

Van Wert also forced three turnovers from Ryan McGue on interceptions by Luke Wessell, Ashton Baer and Reese Krugh.

McGue finished the night 16 of 35 on passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in addition to the three picks.

Next up for the Cougars is a trip to Lima Bath High School for their regular season finale. The Wildcats (0-9, 0-8 WBL) are coming off of a 35-7 loss to St. Marys on Friday night.

"We just have to continue to live up to the standards that we've set for ourselves," said Recker. "We need to prepare at a championship level and play at a championship level, because ultimately that's where we want to be. I think we need to have a great week of preparation like that and then play like we can against Bath to finish the regular season on a good note."

Scoring summary

Van Wert 14 27 0 7 – 48

Elida 6 3 0 7 – 16

First quarter

VW (10:53) Maddix Crutchfield 29-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good), 7-0.

VW (8:02) Garett Gunter 77-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good), 14-0.

EL (2:41) Ryan McGue 11-yard run (PAT no good), 14-6.

Second quarter

VW (10:54) Aidan Pratt 1-yard run (PAT good), 21-6

VW (7:45) Nate Phillips 17-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good), 28-6.

VW (6:25) Conner Campbell 26-yard reception from Adian Pratt (PAT good), 35-6.

VW (2:43) Nate Phillips 20-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT no good), 41-6

EL (0:00) Grant Hardeman 42-yard field goal, 41-9.

Fourth quarter

VW (11:46) Aidan Pratt 1-yard run (PAT good), 48-9

EL (0:15) Tyler Dillon 7-yard reception from Ryan McGue (PAT good), 48-16.