High school football: Van Wert to play for state Division IV title


Cougars defeat No. 3 Cincinnati Wyoming

By Mark Altstaetter - sports@limanews.com



Van Wert’s Nate Jackson looks for running room between Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joel Allen (67) and Quaid Hauer during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua. See more game photos on 3C and LimaScores.com.

Van Wert’s Nate Jackson looks for running room between Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joel Allen (67) and Quaid Hauer during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua. See more game photos on 3C and LimaScores.com.


Don Speck | The Lima News

Van Wert’s Ian Cowan makes a catch during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal against Cincinnati Wyoming at Piqua.

Van Wert’s Ian Cowan makes a catch during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal against Cincinnati Wyoming at Piqua.


Don Speck | The Lima News

Van Wert’s Connor Pratt tackles Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joop Mitchell during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua.


Don Speck | The Lima News

PIQUA — The athletes in Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal were not even born yet, when Van Wert played in its last state semifinal football game.

Van Wert’s last appearance in the Final Four was 2000, when it eventually got beat by Canton Central Catholic in the Division III state championship game in a double-overtime heartbreaker, 27-26.

Fast forward 20 years, the Cougars were now making a return to state.

In front of Van Wert in Saturday’s Division IV state semifinal was No. 3- ranked Cincinnati Wyoming.

In 2018, Wyoming won the state title. Last year, they reached the state semifinals.

On Saturday, Wyoming was able to control the time of possession for most of the game.

However, in the fourth quarter, Van Wert (10-1) claimed the lead, and its defense came up big down the stretch, en route to a hard-fought 28-20 victory over Wyoming (9-1).

Van Wert will play Mentor Lake Catholic for a state championship on Sunday at Fortress Obetz in Obetz. Kick-off for Sunday’s state final is set for noon.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” Van Wert head coach Keith Recker said. “They deserve everything that has come to them, with all the work they’ve put in. They have all the qualities of a great team. I’m just so happy that they get this opportunity.’

Wyoming came into Saturday’s game, giving up just 7.4 points per game.

“It was such a great game,” Recker said. “Cincinnati Wyoming was all we thought they were going to be, and probably a little bit more. … They’re a great team, with great athletes and great coaches.

“I thought our guys did a very good job of adjusting. We had to make sure we made adjustments on the fly, in order to cover some things; and I thought our guys did an exceptional job of doing that.”

In Van Wert’s first possession of Saturday’s game, the Cougars traveled all the way to Wyoming’s 5-yard line, but eventually turned it over on downs.

The Cowboys did not take long to capitalize.

Wyoming took over and then promptly marched 95 yards on 14 plays for the first score of the game.

Quarterback Brennan Pagan ran it in from seven yards out to cap off the long scoring drive for the Cowboys. With the extra point, Wyoming led 7-0. That 7-point lead for the Cowboys held up to the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, the Cougars cashed in.

Van Wert mounted a 10-play, 46-yard scoring drive to finally get on the scoreboard. Running back Nate Jackson ran it from one yard out. With the extra point by Damon McCracken, the game was tied at 7.

Wyoming responded.

The Cowboys went on a 10-play, 58-yard scoring drive.

Running back CJ Hester rumbled in from 3 yards out to give Wyoming the lead. With the PAT, the Cowboys led 14-7, with 5:30 left in the first half.

C.J. Hester came into Saturday’s contest with 1,060 rushing yards and 16 TDs on the season. Saturday, Hester rushed for just 51 yards on 23 carries.

However, the Cougars had an answer of their own.

Van Wert came roaring back to knot the game at 14 each. Nate Jackson ran the ball in from a yard out for a TD to cap off an 8-play, 47-yard scoring drive, with a little more than three minutes left in the first half.

In the first half, Van Wert quarterback Owen Treece was 8 of 14 passing for 73 yards. Treece ended the game, 12 of 19 passing for 137 yards and a TD pass.

Dru Johnson hauled in three receptions for 78 yards for Van Wert.

Pagan, the Wyoming quarterback ended the night, 17 of 30 for 189 yards and a TD pass.

In the third quarter, Wyoming worked a lot of time off the clock. Van Wert managed just three offensive plays, as the Cowboys controlled the time of possession. The game remained knotted at 14 at the end of the third quarter.

Late in the third quarter, Wyoming mounted a 10-play, 50-yard scoring drive. That scoring drive for the Cowboys was capped off with a 9-yard TD pass from Pagan to Joop Mitchell. However, the extra point attempt by Spencer Gonzalez was no good, and Wyoming led 20-14 with 11:55 left to play in the game.

Van Wert came back with a quick 5-play scoring drive. Treece connected with Dru Johnson for a 46-yard TD pass. McCracken’s PAT was good, and the Cougars now led for the first time on the night, 21-20, with 10:51 left to play.

Wyoming took over on offense.

The Cowboys got the football all the way down inside the red zone, but came up empty handed.

Van Wert put the game away down the stretch, when Treece found some space around the left side of the field, and ran the ball in for the final score.

Treece ended the game with 68 rushing yards on 14 carries.

“The whole community is so proud of this football team, because they put in so much work to get here,” Recker said.

Van Wert’s Nate Jackson looks for running room between Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joel Allen (67) and Quaid Hauer during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua. See more game photos on 3C and LimaScores.com.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/11/web1_Van-wert-FB-vs-Wyoming-DS3-3.jpgVan Wert’s Nate Jackson looks for running room between Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joel Allen (67) and Quaid Hauer during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua. See more game photos on 3C and LimaScores.com. Don Speck | The Lima News
Van Wert’s Ian Cowan makes a catch during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal against Cincinnati Wyoming at Piqua.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/11/web1_Van-wert-FB-vs-Wyoming-DS1-3.jpgVan Wert’s Ian Cowan makes a catch during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal against Cincinnati Wyoming at Piqua. Don Speck | The Lima News
Van Wert’s Connor Pratt tackles Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joop Mitchell during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/11/web1_Van-wert-FB-vs-Wyoming-DS7-3.jpgVan Wert’s Connor Pratt tackles Cincinnati Wyoming’s Joop Mitchell during Saturday night’s Division IV state semifinal at Piqua. Don Speck | The Lima News
Cougars defeat No. 3 Cincinnati Wyoming

By Mark Altstaetter

sports@limanews.com

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

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