Key NWC game Friday

First Posted: 9/21/2014

SPENCERVILLE — Spencerville’s run game has been like a steamroller.

The Bearcats have rolled to four blowout wins with the Wing-T power ground game.

It marks Spencerville’s first 4-0 start since the Bearcats started 5-0 in 2000. That team went on to finish 7-3.

But Spencerville coach John Zerbe cautioned that the team is now entering a tough stretch of the schedule.

“We’re off to a great start, and we’re happy with the start,” Zerbe said. “But the real meat of the schedule is coming up with Columbus Grove, LCC (Lima Central Catholic), Bluffton, Crestview and Delphos Jefferson.”

Columbus Grove (3-1, 2-0 Northwest Conference) travels to Spencerville (4-0, 3-0 NWC) for a key matchup in the Northwest Conference at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Spencerville is tied for first place in the NWC with Delphos Jefferson, both at 3-0. Columbus Grove is one-half game back at 2-0.

Spencerville defeated Columbus Grove 39-27 last year at Grove.

Spencerville has won the last three matchups between the two. But since 2000, Columbus Grove has the edge over Spencerville in the series, 8-6.

Spencerville hasn’t been challenged yet in its four straight wins. It’s rolled over Leipsic (51-0), Ada (42-0), Allen East (41-14) and Paulding (60-29).

In Friday’s rout over Paulding, run-happy Spencerville ran for 420 yards. Zach Goecke led the way with 152 yards rushing. Trevor McMichael ran for 111, while Andrew Emery added 89.

For the Bearcats, it’s the same grind-it-out approach, but a few of the names have changed.

“It’s the same Wing-T and the same offense,” Zerbe said. “But now all these guys are finally getting the chance to play. We graduated a few good running backs.”

Columbus Grove coach Andy Schafer said, “The biggest thing is the number of plays they have in a drive, 15 to 20 in an average drive. That keeps an offense off the field. How do we simulate that in practice? They eat up the clock. .. You do seem some teams run it (the Wing-T), but other teams are more balanced. But Spencerville will run, run, run.”

Zerbe pointed to his team’s offensive line as the key to the attack.

“Eli Hawk, the senior right tackle, has done a really nice job. And junior center Evan Barnett is an essential piece to the line and makes all the calls,” Zerbe said.

Spencerville’s defense has already posted two shutouts and is giving up just over 10 points per game.

“The defense has been really good so far and our linebackers have done a nice job,” Zerbe said. “Defensive tackle Logan Vandemark was all-league last year and he’s a game-changer.”

Zerbe also mentioned inside linebackers Goecke and Evan Pugh as being two of the keys to shutting down the running game.

“Pugh is one of our guards. He’s 6-foot, 220 and is a sprinter on our track team,” Zerbe said.

Columbus Grove won its first three games over Pandora-Gilboa (30-28), Allen East (46-21) and Ada (31-17). The Bulldogs are coming off a non-league loss to Lima Central Catholic (38-17).

In the loss to LCC, Columbus Grove quarterback Reid Stechschulte completed 7 of 23 for 152 yards and one TD. He also led the team in rushing with 12 carries for 74 yards. Bailey Clement had two catches for 66 yards, with a 47-yard TD.

“Stechschulte is really good and only a sophomore,” Zerbe said. “He’s a nice quarterback and they run the option. They also have Joey Warnecke, who is a hard runner.

Added Schafer, “Reid is a sophomore and we give him complete control of when he keeps it (on the option) and when he pitches it. … We have to do a better job of finishing drives. Last week we had the ball twice inside the 5 and didn’t get a TD.”

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