VAN WERT — Eggerss Stadium is old. It is pretty, charming and one of my favorite places to watch a football game. Whether it’s the setting in the heart of Van Wert, or the cannon blast firing off after the National anthem (which scares years out of my life expectancy every time I hear it) or the wall in the end zone there is just something about the 82 year old stadium that beckons the emotions that make high school football so great.

Yet, the ole stadium will be having a first this Saturday as the Cougars will host Huron for Eggerss Stadium’s first playoff game in history. This also marks the fourth time that Van Wert has made the playoffs, 1985, ‘86 and 2000.

You can feel the spirit in the town, as more than ever you are witnessing “Go Cougars” signs riddled through the streets, draping the fronts of businesses and houses.

“It’s neat for myself, but it’s really neat for our players they do all the hard work,” said Van Wert’s head coach Keith Recker on the reception the team has been getting from the town. “I love hearing stories about people coming up to the [players], we are hearing from alumni who played, and obviously everyone in the town…People are making a big deal about this because it is a big deal, our guys have worked really hard for this.”

“It is just so neat to see the town rallying behind us and being excited for us— that makes it pretty special for us that people are this excited about it,” continued Recker.

The Cougars of course got to the playoffs via working an 8-2 record after falling to two state ranked, playoff bound teams in the first three weeks in Wapakoneta and St. Mary’s. Van Wert could have packed it in, as at that point the playoffs looked bleak and a promising season had a dark cloud hanging over it.

The Cougars dug deep and dominated the next seven games en route to getting a number three seed in the region. The Cougars opponent, the Huron Tigers who finished the regular season with a 7-3 record.

Recker, who used to coach in the conference Huron plays in has some background on the Tigers.

“We kind of have a good feel for them,” said Recker. “They’re a good team, and they are a very aggressive team, especially on the offensive and defensive line. They don’t have that one standout guy who is the running back, receiver or quarterback that stands out above everybody else but they have just really good players through out. There isn’t a receiver that doesn’t run good routes, their quarterback throws a really nice ball and can run also. They have a 200-205 pound running back that runs an inside zone play really well.”

The Tigers quarterback Drew Sterett has eclipsed 1,300 passing yards on the season while also barely passing double digits in touchdowns and interceptions. Other than that the Tigers stats supports the claim that they have just a large group of guys that play good pigskin.

“I think our league has prepared us for this, because there isn’t a quarterback we have seen that hasn’t been able to run and throw the ball,” added Recker. “Then the two big running backs the last two weeks with Celina and Defiance, both of which were over 200 pounds. So we have seen a good mix of this, it’s just they do things really well, they aren’t going to beat themselves, have bad turnovers, have bad penalties— so we are going to play well and take care of the ball.”

The playing surface at Eggerss Stadium might become a factor this Saturday as rain has persisted throughout the week making the conditions wet and slippery. Muddy fields usually bring call backs of smash-mouth football. Running right up the gut and keeping the ball on the ground and limiting the ball in the air. Whatever the case will be, the Van Wert defense will be up to task. The Huron defense might need to employ lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church, one if by land, two if by air, because I’m sure Sam Hohler, head coach of the Tigers, knows the Cougars offense can hurt you in multiple ways.

Nate Place threw for over 1,300 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions while also gaining 1,300 yards on the ground and 21 scores. The Cougars also had Jake Hilleary, who came into his own at the tail end of the season, rush for over 1,000 yards while scoring 15 times. The threats don’t stop there, as Drew Bagley, Tanner Barnhart and Owen Treece over threats on the outside. That still doesn’t cover Owen Treece’s ability at throwing the ball either.

For Recker the game plan is simple— keep doing what we’ve been doing.

“We have to continue the run the ball well, our offensive line has done a really nice job,” said Recker. “We ‘wanna’ get the run game going so it opens up our pass game, instead of vice-versa. On defense we have to continue to get better and not give out big plays… Our run defense has played well all year, if we can continue to do that and not give up big plays we create some turnovers and stops.”

The show down will take place at 7:00 on Saturday at Eggerss Stadium.

The winner the match-up will go on to face the winner of the St. Marys- Orange game next Saturday at a neutral site.