Maddix Crutchfield of Van Wert makes a catch against Celina on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)
Maddix Crutchfield of Van Wert makes a catch against Celina on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)

CELINA — Friday night's WBL tilt between Van Wert and Celina was a tale of two halves. Although Celina held a 7-0 lead at the break, the Cougars stormed back for 43 unanswered points in the second half to piece together a convincing 43-7 victory in their WBL opener.

"Celina understood that we came out with a lack of energy tonight, similar to how we practiced this week," said Van Wert head coach Keith Recker. "They won the first half and deservedly so, but we told the kids at half time that they'll be fine if they come out and play their game. That helped us get things back on track to get this win."

"As a team, we can't get complacent," continued Recker. "We need to realize that we have to be ready to go when we get off the bus, not wait around to see what other teams will do against us."

Although Van Wert did appear to drag their feet a bit at the outset, nothing got in their way once they started rolling.

After a scoreless first quarter, Celina running back Zander Jones put the Bulldogs on top mid way through the second when he ended a lengthy drove with a 1-yard rushing touchdown.

Van Wert kicked the ball back to Celina to open the second half and immediately forced a three-and-out.

When the Cougars got the ball back, Aidan Pratt found Garett Gunter for a long gain on the drive that set up a 3-yard touchdown run from Brylen Parker.

It seemed to be the spark the Cougars needed.

After forcing Celina to punt on their next possession, Parker repeated last week's effort with another punt return touchdown. This one came from 75-yards out.

"He's so dangerous," said Recker. "Celina was doing a good job of taking away our deep plays and forcing us to go underneath. We did a good job getting Brylen going with some screens and in the running game. Once we did that, we got rolling."

And once Parker got rolling, so did Maddix Crutchfield.

Crutchfield accounted for a 5-yard touchdown at the 1:23 mark in the third quarter, then he added another with eight minutes to go in the game on 52-yard strike from Pratt.

In all, Crutchfield caught eight balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns on the evening. Gunter finished just shy of the 100-yard mark with eight catches for 96 yards and both Conner Campbell and Carson Smith caught two passes.

Pratt compiled a modest line of 24 for 31 through the air for 268 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Parker added his third score of the night on a 24-yard run set up by an Ashton Baer interception with 6:02 left on the clock. Parker finished with 58 yards on 11 carries for two touchdowns.

On the ensuing kickoff, Van Wert forced a safety and scored again on 15-yard run from Briston Wise.

On Friday, the Cougars return home for another WBL matchup with Defiance.

"They're a much improved team this year," said Recker. "They have some good players at their skill positions and coach Cooper does a great job over there. He's going to have his guys ready, so we're going to have to be ready for them as well."

Scoring Summary

Van Wert 0 0 21 22 43

Celina 0 7 0 0 7

Second quarter

CELINA (5:02) Zander Jones 1-yard run 7-0.

Third quarter

VW (8:44) Brylen Parker 3-yard run 7-7.

VW (7:19) Brylen Parker 75-yard punt return 14-7.

VW (1:23) Maddix Crutchfield from Aidan Pratt 5-yard pass 21-7.

Fourth quarter

VW (8:10) Maddix Crutchfield from Aidan Pratt 52-yard pass 27-7

VW (5:41) Brylen Parker 24-yard run 34-7.

VW (5:39) Safety 36-7.

VW (2:02) Briston Wise 15-yard run 43-7.