One week removed from their first loss of the season, the Cougars rebounded in a big way with a 70-41 victory over St. Marys behind a massive performance from junior wideout Conner Campbell.
Campbell caught 12 balls for 269 yards and four touchdowns in the Van Wert victory. His four scores came on receptions of 47, 47, 43 and 21 yards — three of them in the first half.
"After the loss last week, we had our best practice of the year on Monday and we kept that same energy through tonight," said Campbell following his breakout game. "Aidan and I really clicked tonight after all the work we've put in throughout the offseason and it felt great to get this win."
"Conner really put on display what he's capable of tonight," said Van Wert head coach Keith Recker. "He's grown so much over the past few years and I couldn't be happier for him to have the night that he did."
Campbell got the action going with a 47-yard reception over the middle of the field to put Van Wert on the board just over two minutes into the game.
St. Marys matched Van Wert's offensive effort for a good part of the first half, but ultimately struggled to stop the Cougars on defense at any point.
Utilizing a 25-yard jaunt from Brayden Sullivan to push the ball out to midfield, the Roughriders tied the game up barely a minute later when running back Aiden Hinkle sliced 51 yards through the heart of the Van Wert defense for his eighth score of the season.
The Cougars came right back with a nine-play drive that lasted just over two minutes and resulted in a two-yard rushing touchdown from Brylen Parker.
Parker ran for 73 yards and two scores on 16 carries in the game.
Following Parker's touchdown, St. Marys tied the game back up for the last time on short run from Cody Wallace set up by a 45-yard scamper from Keegan Sharpe earlier in the drive.
St. Marys recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Reese Krugh picked off a pass from Wallace a few plays later to regain possession for Van Wert. It was Krugh's third pick of the season.
Touchdown receptions from Campbell (43 yards), and Garrett Gunter (27 yards) on the next two possessions for Van Wert ran the lead up to 28-14 with 5:44 remaining in the half.
Hinkle, the WBL's leading rusher, cut the lead back to seven with a 46-yard touchdown run, but Van Wert immediately answered 48 seconds later with a 21-yard touchdown reception from...you guessed it, Conner Campbell — his third of the half.
Van Wert led 35-21 at the break and received the second half kick.
They proceeded to take the ball 45 yards on eight plays and capped off the drive with a rushing touchdown from Aidan Pratt.
It was also another career night for Pratt as he went 24 of 28 through the air for 455 yards and six touchdowns. He added two more scores and 45 yards on 10 carries on the ground.
With the lead up to 21 points, Van Wert scored twice more in the third on a 23-yard run from Pratt and a 59-yard connection from Pratt to Nate Phillips.
Hinkle also scored his third touchdown of the evening for St. Marys and the count stood at 56-28 after three.
Campbell's fourth touchdown came in the fourth quarter (47-yard catch) along with Parker's second (2-yard run), Hinkle's fourth (10-yard catch from Cody Wallace) and Wallace's second (1-yard run).
St. Marys amassed 407 yards on the ground and was led by Hinkle who carried the ball 25 times for a career high 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Once a final knee from Pratt hit the Eggerss Stadium grass, Van Wert's 70-41 senior night victory was complete.
"This is a huge win for us against a good St. Marys team," said Recker. "This is a very good team in our region. To put on display what we did tonight is something that can give us a lot of confidence going forward."
In all the two squads combined for 1,040 yards of total offense.
Van Wert, ranked #11 in the Division 4 polls this week moves to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Western Buckeye League play. They'll take on 1-4 Ottawa Glandorf on Friday evening.
"Coach Schriner has given them so much consistency over the years," said Recker of Ottawa-Glandorf. "They're very good defensively and they're going to play hard no matter what their record is. I expect us to go over there and have a fight on our hands."
St. Marys 14 7 7 13 - 41
Van Wert 21 14 21 14 - 70
VW (9:49) Conner Campbell 47-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good) 7-0
SM (8:36) Aiden Hinkle 51-yard run (PAT good) 7-7
VW (6:00) Brylen Parker 4-yard run (PAT good) 14-7
SM (3:07) Cody Wallace 2-yard run (PAT good) 14-14
VW (0:57) Conner Campbell 43-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good) 21-14
VW (5:44) Garett Gunter 27-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good) 28-14
SM (4:57) Aiden Hinkle 46-yard run (PAT good) 28-21
VW (4:09) Conner Campbell 21-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good) 35-21
VW (9:19) Aidan Pratt 1-yard run (PAT good) 42-21
VW (4:44) Nate Phillips 59-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good) 49-21
SM (2:21) Aiden Hinkle 1-yard run 49-28
VW (0:55) Aidan Pratt 23-yard run 56-28
SM (10:43) Aiden Henkle 23-yard reception from Cody Wallace (PAT good) 56-35
VW (9:02) Conner Campbell 47-yard reception from Aidan Pratt (PAT good) 63-35
VW (5:16) Brylen Parker 2-yard run (PAT good) 70-35
SM (4:31) Cody Wallace 1-yard run 70-41
Original Article Courtesy to Times Bulletin