The Wapakoneta Redskins are heading into Friday night’s Western Buckeye League varsity football matchup at Van Wert with a full head of steam.
The Cougars, well, aren’t.
It’s 7-0 vs. 0-7.
Wapak is coming off convincing wins over Ottawa-Glandorf and rival St. Marys and seems to be getting stronger every game.
Van Wert, meanwhile, is in a downward spiral that has only worsened since a 28-18 loss to the previously winless Celina Bulldogs in Week 6. Last week the Cougars were blanked 46-0 by the Defiance Bulldogs.
But Van Wert will show Wapak something it hasn’t seen this year — an option offense.
“Coach [Bob] Priest does a good job with his option attack,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said. “He implemented that when he came to Van Wert. They’re going to be in spread, run-and-shoot type sets, running a lot of option.
“Any time you play an option team, it takes an adjustment. So were working assignment football this week.”
Defending the option takes a different mindset and places more emphasis on discipline.
“You’ve got a guy on the dive, a guy on the quarterback, a guy on the pitch. But also not to over-penetrate,” Frye said. “It’s tough to do when you’re a kid playing defense because your human nature tells you to get upfield and make a play.
“So you’ve got to play at the heels of the offensive linemen until you know where the ball is at or you’re going to open up the dive and quarterback run-through lanes.”
The option attack will definitely put an emphasis on teamwork and communication by the defense. In Wapak’s multiple defensive schemes, different postilions have different assignments based on that particular set.
“The emphasis is discipline and being assignment-sure, and really attacking,” Frye said.
Though the Cougars are dead last in the league in total offense, they are fifth in rushing offense.
Lucas Sullivan, a junior fullback, is averaging 73 yards per game and 5.3 per carry.
The Cougars’ best athlete is 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior Austin Reichart, who plays multiple positions.
Junior wide receiver Caleb Lloyd brings a lot of speed.
“Wherever he is, we have to keep an eye on him,” Frye said.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Williams left last week’s game with an injury. His status for Friday night is unknown.
Turnovers have been a major issue for the Cougars, who have lost 16 fumbles and thrown nine interceptions for a minus-11 turnover ratio.
Defensively Van Wert is fifth against the run and ninth against the pass, trailed only by St. Marys. But the Cougars are last overall, giving up an average of 38.7 points and 390.3 yards per game.
Whether Wapak returns to the wing or sticks with the fling half of its “Wing-and-Fling” offense will be determined by what the Redskins coaches see from the Van Wert defense.
“The line-blocking schemes are virtually the same in both the wing and the fling,” Frye said. “So that allows us to get extra practice time equally on both parts.
“I never really know going into a ballgame. Part of it depends on what the opponent is giving you and part of it depends on the weather conditions at times, too.”
Last week in beautiful weather conditions against the worst pass defense in the league in St. Marys, junior quarterback Kyle Gibson had a breakout game, completing his first 17 passes en route to 289 passing yards.
“We were going to stay with the hot hand,” Frye said. “And that was the hot hand that week. ... We’re not going to go away from what’s working for us, even though we can jump back-and-forth now. We can jump from one to the other anytime.”
Penalties were a concern for Wapak in the St. Marys game. The Redskins are tied with St. Marys as the most penalized teams in the WBL with 39 each.