Sophomore reciever and quarterback Owen Treece comes down with the ball Friday night on the lone Cougars scoring drive. (DHI Media/ Reid Maus)
Sophomore reciever and quarterback Owen Treece comes down with the ball Friday night on the lone Cougars scoring drive. (DHI Media/ Reid Maus)
VAN WERT — A steady rain the entire game proved to be much better conditions for the visiting St. Marys Riders’ wing-t style offense than the home Van Wert Cougars’ spread. The Riders ran through the middle two quarters scoring 38 unanswered points in their 38-6 victory over Van Wert.

If the first drive for was any indication for how the game would go, the Cougars would have dominated. As the Riders started with the ball, and three plays after a 14 yard rush by Christian Triplett made it 1st and 10, the Riders turned the ball over on downs. This was thanks to Van Wert junior TJ Reynolds bringing down Riders ball carrier Sean Perry in the back field for a loss on 4th and 2.

Nate Place and the Cougars offense took over on the 38 yard line. Place shined, marching Van Wert down field. After a penalties, the Cougars offense was looking down the barrel of a third and long play, when Place connected with sophomore Owen Treece for a 25 yard pass. Then once again, two plays later after a couple of drops balls by the wide-outs in the slippery conditions, Place connected with his receivers for 1st down. On the next four plays Place would rush three times for a total of 28 yards. The last rush was a three yard carry right up the chute for a Cougars early 6-0 lead. Van Wert was unsuccessful on the two point conversion play.

That would be the last time the Cougars would score all night.

“Their defensive line and, really, their outside linebackers controlled us all night,” said Van Wert’s head coach Keith Recker. “We wanted to try and sprint out, but we couldn’t sprint out. We knew anything in the run game was going to have to come outside, because they’re so good with their defensive line.”

The first quarter would stay silent, but St. Marys started some action late when they received the ball on the 48 yard line with 2:38 to go.

St. Mary’s quarterback Braeden Dunlap threw his first two passes of the game on their fourth drive, the latter was completed for 18 yards. The preceding play had excitement as Ty Howell would receive a hand off and rush the ball into the red zone, which didn’t worry the defense much as practically immediately after the play started, the referee threw a flag on the offensive line. Though when Howell was finally brought down, he was illegally brought down by his face mask. So, instead of being 1st and 20, they replayed the play entirely, because of the off-setting penalties.

The Riders would continue their drive into the red zone with 1st and goal, ball on the ten. The 1st quarter would end on consecutive 2 yard rushes for Rider quarterback Dunlap. On the first play of the second quarter St.Marys would score on a six rush by Dunlap and the Riders would never look back. Kicking the PAT through the up-rights and taking a 7-6 lead.

The Cougars offense wouldn’t find their stride for the next three drives, all of which ended in three-and-outs. The Riders on the other hand, after punting on their subsequent drive would score on all of their next six drives.

“About five minutes left in the half it’s 7-6” said Recker. “We had some penalties, some big plays like that and we kind of lost what we were doing— as far as how we were attacking it. To give up two scores before halftime was huge, we come out 7-6 with the ball at half and it’s a completely different game.

The second score the Riders had aired on the side of luck. As with the ball on the 30, 4th and 5, and five minutes remaining Dunlap dropped back to pass, and for one the rare times in the entire game, St. Marys’ pocket collapsed. Dunlap escaped two pass rushers and ran to his left along the sideline. Right before he would get hit by the Cougars pass rushers, Dunlap launched a ball towards a crowded end zone. When the pass came down a member of the Cougars secondary was right there to make the interception. Yet, just like many of the wide receivers on both teams would fall victim to how slick the football was and slide through his grasp in would lay into Gabe Vandever’s hands for the Riders second touchdown of the game.

The Riders would score two minutes later when Eddie Fowler would run it up the gut for a 19yd touchdown.

Before halftime the Cougars threatened to score, moving the ball over 50 yards and into the red zone. Van Wert received one extra play with eight seconds left, ball on the 20. Owen Treece would feel the pressure from the tenacious St.Marys pass rushers and throw up a desperation heave towards the end zone, which was intercepted.

St. Marys kept the momentum going after scoring 21 in the second quarter by scoring 17 in the third.

“They wore us out a little of bit with their style of play” said the Cougars head coach. “I really thought overall our defense played really well against a team that had 42 in the first half last week. So, I’m pretty proud of our defense, we have plenty of things to sew up, but I like where we are out right now.”

This was the second straight week the Cougars faced a team that was primarily run driven.

“Last week they just physically manhandled us at Wapak,” said Recker. “Worry was a lot of the same this week, because of the style of play. Our guys really stepped up to the plate. The score isn’t indicative of it, but I liked defensively just being able to play with a physical team like that.”

Van Wert falls to 1-2 on the season and travels to play Ottawa Glandorf next Friday.