WAPAKONETA — Friday’s Western Buckeye League football opener between Wapakoneta and visiting Van Wert started out more like a track meet.
After the two teams reeled off 33 total points in the first 12 minutes of action, Wapakoneta’s defense stepped up and slowed Van Wert down en route to a 42-12 victory at Harmon Field.
However, there was no slowing down the Wapakoneta offense. After getting down 12-7, Wapakoneta then scored 35 unanswered points for the lopsided victory.
Wapakoneta improves to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the WBL. Van Wert slips to 1-1, 0-1.
“We knew, coming in, that they were extremely big up front; they had great length; and they were athletic in the skilled positions,” Wapakoneta coach Travis Moyer said. “So we knew we were going to have a fight on our hands for 48 minutes.
“We did not tackle well early. But, give them (Van Wert) credit. They have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football over the last four years. So, we knew it was going to be a challenge for us.”
Both teams’ offenses were clicking in the first quarter.
Wapakoneta slipped out with a 21-12 lead by the end of the first quarter as the lead changed hands three times.
On the very first possession of the game, Van Wert mounted an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run by Jake Hilleary (13 rushes, 70 yards). The Cougars reeled off seven first downs on the opening drive. The extra point was blocked, making the score 6-0, Van Wert.
The Redskins traveled 60 yards on nine plays on their first possession of the game, capping it off with a 10-yard TD run by Evan Kaeck (20 rushes, 117 yards, 4 TDs). With the point after by Tristan Gesler, Wapakoneta took a 7-6 lead, with a little more than five minutes to play in the first quarter.
Van Wert came right back on its next possession and regained the lead, 12-7. Quarterback Nate Place broke loose – after momentarily being stopped at the line – and rambled 61 yards for the score. Place ended the night with 143 rushing yards and 94 passing yards.
However, Wapakoneta would not be out-done.
With a little more than three minutes left in the opening quarter, quarterback Brady Erb found Riley Worthen-Gibson open down the middle of the field, and the senior running back covered 62 yards on the play for the go-ahead score, giving the Redskins a 14-12 lead.
Right before the end of the first stanza, the Redskins added another quick score, off a Van Wert turnover. Worthen-Gibson ran it in from 22 yards out. With the point after, Wapakoneta’s lead was 21-12, which held up to the first stop.
Wapakoneta wasted little time in the second quarter.
It took the Redskins just three plays to get into the end zone, pushing their lead to 28-12. After Erb connected with Isaac Meeks for a 39-yard pass play, Kaeck then cashed in from 9 yards out with a run off right tackle.
Wapakoneta maintained the 16-point lead to the halftime break.
“I thought once we settled down and kind of got our feet underneath us, we played well up front,” Moyer said. “We know if we want an opportunity to win each and every Friday that we need to play well up front.”
The Redskins picked up right where they left off in the first half.
On its opening drive of the second half, Wapakoneta mounted a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive to extend its lead to 35-12. Kaeck recorded his third rushing TD of the night, with a 5-yard run to the end zone.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kaeck capped an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive with a 5-yard scamper to the end zone for his fourth TD on the night, giving Wapakoneta the commanding 30-point lead and also forcing a running clock with a 30-point lead.
“I thought our backs ran extremely hard,” Moyer said. “We also made big plays through the air tonight. We truly believe that the more people we get involved, the tougher we are to defend. Obviously, that’s our goal for each and every week.”
After a first half in which Van Wert recorded 11 first downs (seven in the first quarter), the Cougars struggled in the second half, moving the chains just five times.
Van Wert ended the game with 321 total yards of offense.
“I think these guys will respond,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “They are a tight group. They are a hungry group. I think they’re going to learn from this and keep moving forward.”
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