Anyone who thought that Defiance wouldn't be motivated to play its best against winless Van Wert on Friday night at Defiance's Fred J. Brown Stadium, doesn't know Jerry Buti very well.
The DHS coach had his Bulldogs ready to go and then some ... as they rolled to an easy 46-0 homecoming victory over the Cougars.
"There were so many reasons we wanted to come out, play our best and win this football game," stated Buti. "It's homecoming, it was a chance for us to have a winning record at this point of the season, it was a chance for us to get into the upper echelon of the league where we should be and where we're working to be, and it was a chance for us to take back a little of our respect after they thumped us last year 42-7."
While Defiance (4-3, 3-3 WBL) was celebrating a win, Van Wert (0-7, 0-6 WBL) was left to wonder what happened after the Bulldogs dominated from the get-go.
"There wasn't anything I saw tonight that I was looking for or I thought we would do," said Van Wert coach Bob Priest. "I thought we'd at least give them a game and we certainly didn't do that. There was no fight tonight, we gave a very apathetic performance and I don't have the answer for that right now."
It took the Bulldogs just three plays to take the lead for good on the opening series of the contest.
On a third-and-10 play at the Van Wert 48-yard line, DHS signal-caller Joe Keween hit wide-open tight end Zach Hale down the middle of the field for a 48-yard score. After Austin Hancock added the PAT, the Bulldogs were in front 7-0 with less than two minutes gone from the clock.
"It was a great pass by Joe (Keween) and once I caught it I saw nothing but green in front of me," said Hale about his first TD of the season. "It meant a lot to score tonight on homecoming, it was my first touchdown and it felt great."
After holding the Cougars to a three-and-out on their first series, things went from bad to worse on fourth down for Van Wert. The snap to punter Luke Stevens rolled on the ground back to him, where he was swarmed under by a host of Bulldogs at the Van Wert 5-yard line. Just two plays later, Nick Lopez dove into the end zone from one yard out to give the home team a 13-0 lead with 8:23 still left to play in the opening stanza.
"Credit Defiance, they came out and attacked, attacked, attacked," said Priest. "We just made mistake, after mistake, after mistake. At some point when we kept making the mistakes our heads went down and we didn't respond. It just turned into a very poor night and that's on me."
The Bulldogs added two more scores in the opening stanza, one on a 47-yard run by Lopez and one on an 8-yard pass to Trey Guilliam as they cruised into the second quarter in front, 26-0. Lopez finished the game with 27 carries for 145 yards and three rushing scores, while also adding a 20-yard catch for a touchdown.
"I wanted to see us play at our level and not theirs and I was really proud of how our kids took it to them physically," said Buti. "They're a struggling team, but as a coach, you prepare your kids like they're your equal. As far as I was concerned, when we stepped out on the field they were our equal. When you take that approach, that's why you play like we did tonight. Our kids were on top of their game tonight."
Leading 33-0 in very early in the third quarter, Defiance left little doubt it was in charge when Van Wert freshman quarterback Chandler Adams was hit by A.J. Readon and fumbled the football. The ball took a nice hop into the arms of Defiance's Mike Mansfield, who covered the final 30 yards for the score, pushing the DHS advantage to 40-0. Van Wert finished with eight fumbles, losing two.
"The coaches told us before the game if their line steps down, step down with it and be ready to get in there and make a play," said Mansfield. "The ball came loose, I got to it, picked it up and scored. That's my first touchdown ever playing organized football and man did it feel great."
Keween finished 5-of-9 passing for 104 yards and three TDs for Defiance, while Lucas Sullivan led Van Wert with 21 carries for 60 yards.
Defiance is back in action Friday when it hosts Lima Shawnee, while Wapakoneta visits Van Wert.
First Downs 5 12
Rushing Yards 40-44 50-245
Passing Yards 29 104
Total Yards 73 349
Passing 2-3-1 5-9-1
Fumbles-Lost 8-2 3-1
Penalties 3-40 4-38
Van Wert 0 0 0 0 - 0
Defiance 26 7 13 0 - 46
D - Hale 45-pass from Keween (Hancock kick).
D - Lopez 1-run (kick failed).
D - Lopez 47-run (pass failed).
D - Guilliam 8-pass from Keween (Hancock kick).
D - Lopez 20-pass from Keween (Hancock kick).
D - Mansfield 30-yard fumble return (Hancock kick).
D - Lopez 8-run (kick failed).
RUSHING: Van Wert - Sullivan 21-60; Lloyd 3-41; Kopp 2-13; N. Krugh 1-0; M. Krugh 1-(-5); Stevens 2-(-26); Adams 12-(-29). Defiance - Lopez 27-145; Meyer 6-49; Kahle 4-38; Conley 3-10; Batt 5-5; Castillo 1-1; Chavez 3-(-1); Keween 1-(-2). PASSING: Van Wert - Adams 2-3-1-29. Defiance - Keween 5-9-1-104. RECEIVING: Van Wert - M. Krugh 1-16; Sullivan 1-13. Defiance - Hale 1-48; Voll 1-24; Lopez 1-20; Guilliam 1-8; Hancock 1-4.