By Gary R. Rasberry
FORT RECOVERY -- Given the outcome of the previous two meetings between the Mercer County Cougars and the South Central Broncos, Saturday's Interstate Football League division semifinal seemed to be weighted heavily in favor of the Cougars, who were hosting the game at Barrenbrugge Park in Fort Recovery.
The outcome proved the theory right as Mercer County held the Broncos in check and also held their tempers in the 42-6 win.
Mercer County, 6-3 on the season, now plays Hendricks County (Indiana) next week in the IFL South Division finals next week. The winner of that game plays the winner of next week's North Division final on October 24 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. South Central -- located in Bloomington, Indiana -- ends its season at 1-8.
The Cougars dominated all aspects of the game, holding the Broncos to just 104 yards of offense and forcing four turnovers. The only score South Central was able to get came on a double reverse that saw the Cougar defense get pulled into a run towards the sidelines and unable to get back before Thomas Brashear took the second reverse and went 55 yards for the touchdown.
As it had in the first two meetings, the Cougars were able to force turnovers, getting three interceptions and a fumble recovery on the night. "We knew their game plan was the razzle dazzle," said Cougar linebacker Collin Bechtol. "They run a lot of east and west and find the seam doing that. What we tried to do is to swamp them and bog them down where they didn't have much room to change direction. That was the big thing, we had so many gang-tackles tonight."
When the Cougars were on offense, the offensive line allowed quarterback Adam Wenning time to get things in order and allowed the backs room to get free. Wenning was 7-of-12 in the game for 131 yards and two scores. The first came at the end of a nine-play, 57-yard drive that ended with Wenning finding Kirk Link for a six-yard score just six minutes into the game. The second game on the first play of the next series when Wenning found former Coldwater standout Craig Schwieterman for a 42-yard touchdown strike. Schwieterman had four catches for 130 yards in the game.
"The line did a great job, especially that Everman kid," Wenning said with a laugh, referring to former St. Henry player Doug Everman. "I had plenty of time and they punched some holes in there. The line controlled the game."
Chad Timmerman also had some praise for the line after coming up with 156 yards rushing on 26 carries. Timmerman also had scoring runs of 18, nine and one to help pace the offense.
"It was a good start to the playoffs," said Timmerman. "We thought we were going to have a little bit of a problem because we really didn't do much this week at practice, but it worked out good."
The Cougars special team also got into the scoring act. With the Broncos having to punt from deep in the end zone, the Cougars came charging. Eric Schmitz got the block off the punt, which rolled to the eight yard line. Link was the closest Cougar and the only one in the area, allowing Link to score his second touchdown of the night with 8:47 left in the game. The officials allowed the clock to go to continous running for the remainder of the game.
Frustrations started to set in on the Broncos, making the hard-hitting game a little too rough at times. Twice, South Central was flagged for roughing the kicker on extra-point attempts and several unsportsmanlike conduct flags were thrown. The Broncos were flagged 11 times for 93 yards. Despite the extraciricular pushing and jawing of the Broncos, the Cougars kept their cool, not getting a penalty until late in the fourth quarter.
"We always talk about that," said fullback Jose Faller. "We talk about not doing anything stupid and put ourselves in a bad position -- we've done that a couple of times."