VAN WERT — If the atmosphere on Saturday at Lima Spartan Stadium is anything like it was last week at Egerrss Stadium, than everyone attending will be in for a treat. But you could already assume that considering the two teams playing. Van Wert is gearing up for week 12 against WBL rival St. Marys in a rematch from week three.

The first two WBL opponents the Cougars faced this season finished atop of the league. The Roughriders handed the Cougars their second loss of the season to draw Van Wert to 1-2 at the time— Van Wert has won all eight games in the two months since that week three meeting. Goes without saying, but the week 12 Cougars are far more improved than the week three Cougars.

“The biggest difference is that we have an offensive identity,” said Cougars’ head coach Keith Recker about the contrasts of his team from the first meeting and the rematch that will take place this Saturday. “Last year we were a little bit heavier pass than what we thought we’d be. This year we were trying to figure out for the first three or four games, what we are going to be.”

In the week four Ottawa-Glandorf game they found their identity, as the gains were very lucrative in the run game. On the season the Cougars run the ball about 65 percent of the time, which is a testament to not only the backs but the offensive line. Nate Place and Jake Hilleary both rushed over the millennium mark this season.

“We know what we want to do, we know what we want to be,” continued Recker. “We’ve been able to really practice that and execute those things… Really our offensive line is playing so much better now than what they did in week three.”

The jury is out on the Roughriders offense, they like to run and they do it very well. Sean Perry lead St.Marys in rushing with 1146 yards, as he was one of the four rushers in the WBL that eclipsed 1,000 (two were Cougars). Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game will be to see how well the Cougars defensive line does against the Roughriders run game, as Van Wert led the league in rushing defense while St. Marys led in rushing offense.

“They are very good at what they do,” said Recker. “When we talked about who we had this week, we knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy task by any means. We know they are probably going to put up some points, because they run the ball so well and they are very good at their play-action game. They are very well coached, they don’t have many weak spots.”

The Roughriders ranked dead last in passing offense in terms of yards (511), completions and attempts. Yet, they finished tied for fifth in touchdowns and had a WBL low, single interception. That is tremendously efficient. The farther you dig into these two team’s stats, and this match-up one thing becomes abundantly clear. The victor will be whatever team can run the ball more efficiently.

With temperatures near freezing at game-time tomorrow, one team leading the WBL in team rushing, while the other has two of the top three rushers in the league, and these two teams are the top two run defenses—this game as the potential to be a struggle on the scale of invading Russia in the winter.

Though both teams do prefer the ground game, Van Wert is much more suited to attack through the air. Place has weapons like Tanner Barnhart, Owen Treece and Drew Bagley to punish the Roughriders secondary. Though it is worth mentioning that St.Marys averaged two interceptions per game defensively.

Coach Recker mentioned how there is raised stakes at hand, even more so than the fact that it is the regional semi-finals, because this is a WBL opponent and a team that beat the Cougars.

“There is a lot of pride on the line,” said Recker. “We want to be the WBL team that moves on, and I think the guys understand that. With it being a team that we lost to already, that adds a little more pride to it. We are a pretty proud and confident team right now. I know the guys are going to give their best effort Saturday.”

Regardless of how the game shapes out, it will be an experience that the Cougars and the town of Van Wert won’t soon forget. As Recker noted that experience already as been awesome, as the town has fully gotten behind the Cougars and it showed last Saturday at the packed Eggerss Stadium.

The game is slated for 7:00 P.M. Saturday at Lima Stadium. The winner of the game will face the winner of the Clearview- Clear Fork game next Saturday.