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Monday, August 6th, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
Cougars shut down Generals
FORT RECOVERY - After giving up 21 straight points after taking a 14-0 lead en route to a 28-16 loss last week, the Mercer County Cougars looked to notch up the defense this week in the IFL home opener against the Indiana Generals.
The Cougars, missing several players and losing a couple to injury during the game, pitched the shutout as the offense came up with several big plays to post a 27-0 win over the Generals at Barrenbrugge Park in Fort Recovery.
Mercer County goes to 2-1 on the season as the Generals fall below .500 at 1-2.
The Cougar defense shut down a lot of the Generals' offense in the first half, holding them to just 47 yards of offense in the opening 24 minutes, thanks in large part to a negative 25 yards rushing. In the end, the Generals were able to record 195 yards of offense, but the important thing being that none of the yards resulted in points.
The first points of the game came via the defense. Generals starting quarterback Joe Zeunik looked for a long pass, but did not have the range for a teammate, but found Cougar defensive back Devin Swartzel at the Generals' 44. Swartzel had open field down to the final five yards, where Eric Schmitz threw a perfect block to get Swartzel into the end zone at the 6:33 mark.
Four minutes later, the Cougars took advantage of a bad punt snap to start on the Indiana 23. Four plays later, Brad Bretz found Matt Tobe for a 22-yard touchdown pass. A two-point pass to Kevin Schoenherr made it 14-0 after the first quarter.
Tobe got his second score of the game with less than two minutes left in the half, breaking open on a run from 10 yards to make it 21-0 at the half.
Tobe left the game after the play after hurting his ribs on the scoring run. That, along with defensive back-kicker Trevor Stromblad suffering a foot injury on the first defensive play, made for a long second half for the Cougars, who dressed just 21 for the game.
Bretz hammered the final nail late in the third quarter, finding Justin Kahlig for a 74-yard touchdown to put the ball on the Indiana 7-yard line. After a holding call moved the ball to the 17, Bretz found Jon Kaup for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 27-0.
Bretz finally looked comfortable in the Cougar offense, completing 11-of-18 passes for 221 yards. Kaup, Bretz's receiver during their days at Fort Recovery, made six catches for an even 100 yards.
"It felt good tonight," said Bretz. "I think it took two games to get seven years of rust off of me. Offensive line played great tonight. I was able to do more that I wanted to, run the ball, throw the ball. We had some injuries and we had to put people in there who never played running back and were able to do it. Defense played great. I just felt so much better this week. More comfortable.
"Kaupy and Justin (who finished with two catches for 94 yards) are both fast and so one-on-one that all I have to do is throw it up and I count on them to make the catch."
All that remained was to keep the Generals from punching into the end zone. Midway through the fourth, the Generals went on a six-minute drive that culminated in a fourth-and-goal from the Cougar five. Kasey Harpold, who was 12-of-29 in the second half at quarterback, misfired to keep the Generals scoreless with 2:24 to remaining.
The Cougars could not the run the clock out, and Indiana had one last drive starting on the Mercer County 38. Harpold got the Generals to the three on fourth down, but Tyler Wuebker intercepted the ball in the end zone with 15 seconds left to end the game.
"Coming off the loss last week, we came in determined to make big plays on defense," said Swartzel, who was in on a number of tackles for the Cougars. "We got a goose egg out of it. We're going to try and keep it rolling."
The Cougars travel to Waterloo, Indiana next week to face the Classic City Crush. The next home game is August 11, when the West Ohio Wranglers come to Fort Recovery for a 5 p.m. kickoff.
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