Van Wert's Owen Treece slings a pass to TJ Reynolds during the Cougars blowout of Celina on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)
Van Wert's Owen Treece slings a pass to TJ Reynolds during the Cougars blowout of Celina on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)

VAN WERT - Eggerss Stadium may have been a cold place to be on Friday night, but nothing, including frigid temperatures, could slow down the red hot Cougar offense during their 45-14 drubbing of the Celina Bulldogs.

On a night in which many players stepped on the field for their last high school game, Seniors Tanner Barnhart, TJ Reynolds, and Jake Hilleary combined for four of the six touchdowns scored by the Cougars.

Hilleary broke the scoreless tie when he ran the ball in from two yards out with 4:45 left in the first quarter. The Cougars lead back found the end zone twice on Friday night to finish his Senior season with 16 total touchdowns.

“I think our guys got comfortable with what was going on out there, and we’re a very physical team,” said Van Wert Head Coach Keith Recker. “We got our running game going, along with our defense, and as the game wore on we just kept getting better.”

The Cougars would take a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter with their second score coming from Ian Cowan on a 29 yard touchdown pass from Owen Treece. Treece finished the night throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board with 5:38 left in the half when Jaxson Sullivan took a hand-off from quarterback Cooper Jones and ran it in for six.

The bad news for the visiting team was that the Cougar defense would not allow another score until late in the fourth quarter.

Celina’s touchdown made the game 13-7, and that’s the last time the game would be close.

The Cougars answered with a score of their own on the following drive, as Owen Treece scrambled 14 yards through the Bulldog defense to put the home team up 20-7.

Thanks to a Celina fumble, Van Wert would get the ball back with one final opportunity to score before half, and they would make it count.

Owen Treece connected with TJ Reynolds on an 18 yard touchdown that sent the game into blowout territory. With his back shoulder grab in the corner of the end zone, Reynolds will wrap up his final season by scoring a touchdown in each of the Cougars final three games.

Van Wert would carry a 27-7 lead into the locker room, and when they took the field for the second half, it was more of the same story.

Celina’s 6-3 Junior quarterback Cooper Jones opened the third quarter by throwing an interception to his counterpart Owen Treece.

The turnover didn’t directly result in a score, but a punt by Peyton McAlpine set the Cougars up for success, as Colin Place helped Holden Reichert force a safety on the next defensive series.

The Cougars defensive attack was something they zeroed in on all week at practice as they prepared for the WBL’s leading rusher in Cooper Jones.

“We had a game plan on Monday, but we weren’t comfortable with it going into Tuesday,” Recker said. “We realized that and we changed things up so that our main goal was to keep him (Cooper Jones) inside and give our defensive line a chance to contain him.”

With Jones bottled up, the Bulldogs had no answer for the Cougars as Jake Hilleary would rush for another touchdown to put his team up 36-7.

The scoring drive was set up by a fourth down conversion where Owen Treece hit Tanner Barnhart with a bomb to put the Cougars in the red zone.

To make matters worse, Celina muffed the kickoff that followed the score, and the Bulldogs were forced to start the drive on their own one yard line.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the green and white, the Cougars forced their second safety of the quarter when the Bulldogs were called for a holding penalty in the end zone. Keagon Hammons drew the hold for Van Wert.

There’s something you don’t see every day. Two safeties in one quarter.

The added two points set the mercy rule in motion as Van Wert’s lead was at 38-7 with a quarter and a half to play.

The two teams would trade garbage time touchdown from Tanner Barnhart of Van Wert, and Collin Harris of Celina before the game ended at 45-14.

With the win, Van Wert finishes fifth in the WBL at 6-4, while Celina falls to 3-7 and will finish in the seventh spot.

“It’s impossible to sum up this year with the journey we went on, but I thanked the players for everything they’ve done for us,” said Recker following the game. “I’ve been coaching for 13 or 14 years now, and this was up there with one of the most enjoyable years I have had. This was such a fun group to be around.”

Van Wert Stat Leaders

Passing

Owen Treece 14/20 242 yards 3TDs 1INT

Rushing

Jake Hilleary 18ATT 122 yards 2TDs

Owen Treece 11ATT 31 yards 1TD

Levi Newell 5 ATT 15 yards

Receiving

Tanner Barnhart 5 REC 110 yards 1TD

TJ Reynolds 4 REC 83 yards 1TD

Ian Cowan 2 REC 42 yards 1TD

Tackles

TJ Reynolds 3

Keagon Hammons 3

Holden Reichert 3

Parker Conrad 3

Tackles for loss

Keagon Hammons 2

Holden Reichert 1

Sacks

Colin Place 1

Safeties

Keagon Hammons 1

Holden Reichert 1

Interceptions

Owen Treece 1

Kicking

Peyton McAlpine 5/5 PATs 5 points