Versailles success will be determined in the trenches

Football games are usually won in the trenches where offensive and defensive lines clash in the hopes of gaining a more favorable position on the field.

For Versailles, the success of both offensive and defensive lines this season will be critical for a good season in 2017.

“Both our defensive and offensive lines will determine how many games we win this year,” Versailles coach Broc Silvers told Mid-Missouri Pigskin Preview. “This is true for all teams in football, but we are relatively inexperienced at both lines this year. We don’t have the roster size that most schools in our conference have, so our guys have to be ready to play ironman football.”

While the lines may be relatively inexperienced, the good news for the Tigers is that their skill position players are not. Overall, Versailles returns 16 lettermen including seven offensive starters and nine defensive starters.

The Pro Style Tiger offense averaged 134 rushing yards per game in 2016 to go along with 79 passing yards per contest that equated to 12 points per game respectively. To help build upon those numbers are a crop of players who have earned their fair share of accolades.

The Tiger backfield will feature a double threat in senior running back Taylor Dobbins and junior running back Grant Hutchison. The former ball carrier earned All-District honors a season ago at receiver and has put up 1,100 all-purpose career yards and eight total touchdowns. Meanwhile, the latter back put up an impressive 300 rushing yards as a fullback in 2016.

Under center taking the snaps this season will be the sophomore gunslinger Coby Williams who will be transitioning from receiver, but saw some time as the signal caller in 2016 throwing for 77 yards. Williams will have a trio of veteran seniors to throw to.

After missing most of 2016 due to injury, the speedy 2015 All-District returner Kooper Wilson will be hungry to get back on the field and build upon his 800 career all-purpose yards. Joining him will be the 6-foot-1 Quinton Ryerson who will look to present a deep threat after starting 10 games last season and the towering 6-foot-3 tight end Jonathon Geier who is transitioning from the offensive line.

Last but not least, 6-foot-3 and 240-pound offensive lineman Chase Hyman will be called upon to provide some veteran leadership his senior season, after earning All-District honors last year, to a young offensive line as the lone returning starter.

“Coby Williams will be a great quarterback in this league. He is a true dual threat guy who is going to make huge strides this year,” Silvers told Mid-Missouri Pigskin Preview. “Our running backs have tons of experience and as long as we stay healthy, our skill guys will be a great asset to our team. The offensive line is growing up as the summer goes along and with our talented skill guys, we will go as far as our offensive line takes us this year.”

Defensively, the Tigers have plenty of experience returning to a unit that allowed 200 rushing yards per contest, 82 passing yards per contest and 28 points on average in the 4-2-5 formation a season ago. Versailles will not only look to chop down those numbers, but continue to be opportunists in the right place at the right time after forcing opponents to cough up 14 turnovers last year.

The Versailles linebackers will be the most experienced group featuring the tough junior Michael Trotter who earned All-District honors at the position in 2016 after recording 81 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and two sacks. Other veteran linebackers include Dobbins (44 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two interceptions), Hutchison and the sophomore linebacker and defensive end hybrid Gage Tessier who recorded 14 tackles, five tackles for a loss and a sack last year respectively.

The secondary will feature Williams and Wilson along with sophomore Brayden Morrison at defensive back to take away any deep threats and keep opposing offenses from sneaking behind them. Wilson will also be one of the key leaders of the defense with 130 career tackles on his resume.

Anchoring the defensive line will be Hyman and Geier who finished with two sacks and seven tackles for a loss in 2016.

Silvers likes what this defense can be capable of and will look for this unit to operate as a smooth-running machine with a lot of the players knowing what to expect.

“We are going to keep things similar to the past with our defensive positioning and play,” Silvers explained to Game Night. “A difference would be the amount of knowledge that our defense will have going into the season.”

Silvers is entering his fourth year as the head man for the Tigers and his fourth year overall as a head coach since taking over the program in 2014. In that span of time, Silvers’ teams have gone 7-33 including a 3-7 finish last year, but have not taken any steps backwards as Versailles has improved or maintained its win total each year.

The Tri-County Conference can provide a tough schedule for a Class 2A school that often faces larger Class 3A schools, but Silvers’ teams have not shied away from the competition. Ultimately, the competitive schedule can help the team be ready for the playoffs where the Tigers will face teams closer to their size.

Versailles traveled down to Stockton last year where they took the host school down to the wire before bowing out in a 28-21 loss to end its 2016 campaign. There is nothing the program would like more than to be in front of the hometown fans in November for district play and pick up the school’s first playoff win under the current playoff format.

“Our team knows we played well against other schools our size. We were competitive with every 2A school we played winning three games and losing two games by a touchdown or less,” the coach told Game Night, referring to last season. “Our goal is to host and win a playoff game this year by being a top four seed in our district.”

The Tigers would also certainly not mind winning their first district title since 2009 and time will soon tell if this group becomes one cohesive force to be reckoned with. The first test will come against Knob Noster on August 18 at 7 p.m., where the Tigers will kick off the season on a three-game homestand.