After its thrilling 21-20 2OT victory on the road at St. Marys last Friday, Defiance will be looking to carry some of that momentum into this week's contest when the Bulldogs host winless Van Wert at Fred J. Brown Stadium at 7:30 p.m., on a Homecoming Friday night.
Defiance mentor Jerry Buti, who earned the 200th win of his career in the victory over St. Marys, knows his Bulldogs (3-3, 2-3 WBL) can't look past the Cougars (0-6, 0-5 WBL) just because they haven't won a game yet in 2011.
"This is a tough opponent, I'm telling you," said Buti. "We can't look at their record and think this is going to be an easy win because if we do, that's a mistake. We're better than them in record only, I don't think we're much better as a team. They've had some injuries and they've had some bad breaks, but I haven't seen them quit in any game. They haven't given up, they've battled people and we better expect the same on Friday night."
Van Wert mentor Bob Priest, a former assistant coach at Defiance as well as a former head coach at Edon, has admired the attitude of his young team as the season has gone along.
"When you're 0-6, of course you wish a lot of things had gone the other way. I will say this about our kids, they still have a tremendous attitude and they've continued to work hard and prepare hard every week," Priest said. "If you came out to one of our practices you wouldn't think we were an 0-6 team. During games, mistakes and negative plays have hurt us, and so far we haven't been able to overcome them."
Van Wert comes to Defiance without starting quarterback Ty Williams (5-9, 170, soph.) who missed last week's game with mono and will be out again this week. Williams was 16-46 passing for 154 yards, two touchdowns and eight picks, while also rushing fore 236 yards on 78 carries with one TD in Van Wert's option offense.
Freshman Chandler Adams (5-6, 135) will start his second varsity game at QB for the Cougars. Adams didn't throw a pass in last week's contest against Celina, but the freshman has rushed 26 times for 81 yards and two scores. Lucas Sullivan (5-11, 185, junior) leads the Cougars with 452 yards rushing on 78 carries with five scores, while Mason Krough (5-7, 155, junior), Tyson Crone (6-0, 160, senior) and Caleb Lloyd (5-10, 155, junior) each have four receptions to tie for the team lead.
"We had three early turnovers against Celina last week, but after that I thought Chandler really settled down," said Priest. "Chandler is a tough kid who took some hits, but he responded well. If Tyler were healthy, he'd be our starting quarterback, but it's the situation we're in right now and we'll move forward and do our best."
Will the Defiance defense be able to take advantage of the freshman?
"An option quarterback is going to do three things during a game ... hand it off to the fullback, pitch it to the pitch man or keep it himself," said Buti. "This freshman kid is going to do the same thing the other kid would do, he's just not as experienced at it. But, the other kid is only a sophomore and this is his first year starting at quarterback too. This freshman kid is pretty quick-footed and I thought he did a pretty good job last week."
Safety Nick Lopez and linebacker Justin Kahle continue to lead the Defiance defense in tackles. Lopez has a team-leading 56 tackles, while Kahle has 55 stops. Cornerback Trey Guilliam has 27 tackles and a team-leading three picks, with fellow corner Austin Hancock checking in with 31 stops and two interceptions. Linebacker Nick Vittorio has 45 stops, while Austin Castillo has a team-leading two sacks.
"I watched Defiance play a 5-3 last week against St. Marys, but if I know Jerry Buti like I think I do, he's going to crowd the box, play man-to-man defense on the outside against our receivers and just come after us," Priest said. "Defiance has always had an attacking defense under Jerry Buti and that's what we'll be expecting on Friday."
After watching Defiance on tape, Priest admitted to being surprised at how well the Bulldogs have been passing the football, especially against St. Marys last week.
"After seeing some of Defiance's scores this year, I figured they were back to playing their brand of smash-mouth football. Then I turn on tape of the St. Marys game and I see them throwing the ball all over the place," said Priest. "They certainly are not one-dimensional and that makes it tough on any defense. We know we still have to stop the run and if they beat us with the pass, then they've earned it."
Defiance signal-caller Joe Keween threw for 324 yards a week ago and now has thrown for 1,019 yards on 65-122 passing with six touchdowns. Hancock has 20 catches for 327 yards and two TDs, while Guilliam has 19 catches for 264 yards and two scores. Lopez leads DHS in rushing with 693 yards on 152 attempts with nine touchdowns, while also catching 13 passes for 262 yards and two scores.
"I think we've thrown the ball a lot in third and passing situations this season, and I think a lot of that has been teams ganging up in the box to try and stop our rushing attack," Buti said. "Because Joe Keween has made such big strides in the passing game, that will make life easier for Nick Lopez to run the football. But again, it all starts up front with our offensive line. The bottom line our kids have made plays and that's been fun to watch."
Linebackers Nick Wolford (6-2, 195, junior) and Logan Ray (6-4, 200, junior) lead Van Wert in tackles with 53 and 52 respectively, while safety Chris Miller (5-8, 145, soph.) has a team-leading two interceptions. Up front, end Austin Reichert (6-3, 220, senior) has 37 stops for the Cougars.