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Monday, August 11th, 2008

Cougars open their home schedule with dominating victory

By Gary R. Rasberry

Mercer County Cougars quarterback Tony McNeilan, right, throws a deep pass durin. . .

FORT RECOVERY - After suffering an undermanned 42-0 loss in the season debut last week, Mercer County looked to vent some frustrations in the home opener on Saturday at Barrenbrugge Park.
The Elkhart Shamrock, unfortunately, did not have the luck of the Irish.
The Cougars outgained the Shamrock 285-36 and scored 34 unanswered points in a 34-12 win to go to 1-1 on the season.
It didn't take long for the Cougars to dot the scoreboard. After a false start on the first play, Tony McNeilan hooked up with Jon Kaup for a 48-yard pass to get to the Elkhart 18. McNeilan then found Justin Kahlig in the end zone with just 18 seconds off the clock.
After forcing a punt, the Cougars worked the ground game, with McNeilan gaining 25 yards to get to the Shamrock 17, then having Matt Tobe run the last 17 yards to make it 13-0 after the missed PAT.
Meanwhile, the Cougars' defense shut down the Shamrock offense, holding Elkhart to minus-14 yards of offense in the first half, with the longest play from scrimmage being three yards.
"Had to get back from the loss last week, but we bounced back strong," said linebacker Greg Faller. "It was a long week, a long drive home (from Bloomington, Ind.) and a long week to get back out."
The defense made things easier for the Cougars' offense after McNeilan, who completed all three of his passes for 66 yards, left the game with an injury to his throwing hand.
With no other regular quarterback on the roster, players began to look for volunteers to do the signal calling.
Linebacker Matt Wendel, who admitted he hadn't played quarterback for quite a while, volunteered for at least the first series.
The one series became the rest of the game as the Jay County graduate was impressive, rushing for two first-half scores and throwing a 67-yard scoring pass to Kahlig for the final Cougar touchdown. Wendel was 5-of-13 passing for 112 yards and rushed for 24 yards, with the big run coming on an 18-yard burst that ended with a hit against Elkhart's Jermaine Wilkes that knocked Wilkes' helmet off.
"Me and Tyler Wuebker (who quarterbacked on several occasions in high school and with the Cougars last season) kind of argued back and forth to see who would go in and play," said Wendel, who said the last time he quarterbacked was in junior high nearly 10 years ago. "I told him I would take the first series.
"After I completed my first pass, I kind of settled in and tried to make the simple plays, then go from there."
Kahlig finished with 85 yards receiving and two touchdowns and Kaup added 66 receiving yards on three catches. Tobe led the Cougars in rushing with 39 yards on nine carries.
The Shamrock got on the board in the final quarter, first on a two-yard pass play from Antoine Young to Anthony Miller, then in the final minute, Wendel tried for the end zone, only to have Tracy Sheppard snag the ball at the two-yard line and run it back 98 yards for the score. Elkhart had just 20 yards rushing and 16 yards passing in the game.
"We want to stop the run all the time," said Faller. "We had our defensive backs back this week. We played well."
The Cougars are back in action this Saturday, making another trip to the Hoosier State to face the Indiana Generals. The next home game is Aug. 23 when the Southwest Ohio Blazers come to Fort Recovery for a 5 p.m. kickoff.
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