Eldon’s high-powered offense was on display once again Friday night in Versailles.
Whether the state-ranked Class 3 No. 9 Mustangs chose to go to the air or keep it on the ground, they scored quickly and scored often. The defense was not too bad either and the end result was a 69-20 win over the Tigers.
Since a tough 32-12 loss at Blair Oaks on September 8, Eldon has won three straight and has averaged 68.8 points per game with an average margin of victory of 41.3 points. Eldon junior quarterback Dawson Brandt, the man under center, said it all starts in practice where the offensive line has been sound.
“The coaches do a great job of making sure the boys know their assignments, their blocking schemes and everything like that,” the junior noted. “I think we are just coming out and executing. I give big props to our line because our line is doing a great job of blocking for us backs and me as a quarterback.”
And when that happens, the game can be pretty fun. Brandt may earn some of the credit, but he enjoys seeing his 10 other teammates on the field doing exactly what they are supposed to do.
“It is great to see the whole offense coming into the swing of things and everybody clicking,” he added. “Everything is lined up so it is just really encouraging knowing everybody is on the same page and we are executing and getting stuff done.”
What turned out to be a lopsided score had a much different beginning. On the very first play from scrimmage, Versailles sophomore quarterback Coby Williams launched a 40-yard deep ball to senior wideout Kooper Wilson to put the Tigers in business in Eldon territory at the 38-yard line. However, a turnover on downs gave Eldon the ball and they quickly answered needing a total of just four plays to go up 21-0 by the end of the first quarter.
On Eldon’s first play, senior fullback Trenton Dillon cut up the left side and used his All-State track speed to outrun Tiger defenders for a 63-yard score. Soon after, Brandt found senior wide receiver Austin Pipes for a 54-yard touchdown pass on a play-action throw and the following drive saw Brandt hit senior tight end Cole Walker for a 27-yard touchdown strike.
The offensive fury continued with a 12-yard touchdown run from senior running back Isaiah Merida and a 40-yard touchdown run from Brandt to make it 35-0 before Versailles struck back. Midway through the second quarter, Williams hit senior Jonathon Geier for an 80-yard tight end dump to cut the deficit to 35-7. Versailles had a number of other big plays, but often found itself stymied with penalties or turnovers when the Tigers began knocking on the door.
“It seems like that happens to us weekly so that was pretty disappointing,” Versailles coach Broc Silvers said of the offensive woes that potentially left 14 to 21 points on the board. “We killed our own drives a couple of times and we have to get that cleaned up. Those are the small things we can control as a unit, as a coaching staff and as a group.”
Later in the half, Versailles junior running back Michael Trotter busted out a 33-yard touchdown run, but Eldon’s offense could not be slowed down. Brandt went on to throw his third touchdown of the night on a 60-yard bomb to Dillon, junior fullback Isaiah Parsons added a 49-yard touchdown run, Merida dashed for a 26-yard score and soon returned a fumble 45 yards to the house to make it 63-13 at halftime.
For a lot of teams this season, stopping Eldon’s ability to find the end zone is easier said than done.
“This is a group of kids that have been together for a long time. They’ve been running this (offense) since they were in what they call the ‘EAC’ (Eldon Athletic Club) and that is a great program,” Silvers said of Eldon’s offensive success. “I don’t know what the breakdown was yet without watching film, but at the end of the day us coaches have to do a better job of getting kids in position to make plays.
“We’ll take responsibility as coaches and we’ll do something different. We just have to keep working because personnel is not the issue. It is just going to have to be getting through to our kids what they need to do to do a better job and what I can do to help them have more success,” the coach added.
With the game well in hand, both sides added just one more score in the final 24 minutes. Eldon sophomore running back Clayton Moore rounded up the Mustang scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run and the Williams-Geier connection struck pay dirt one more time on a 60-yard pass play to create the final margin.
Eldon coach Shannon Jolley was one part of a happy sideline that was glad to see a lot of things go right Friday night.
“I think speed and strength had a lot to do with it,” he said. “I know their kids (Versailles) are playing hard and they may been a little outmanned tonight just from the ages of our kids and some of their experience, but I’m still not going to take anything away from our kids as far as the way they executed and the things they did. It was a great night for us.”
Brandt had a perfect night through the air completing all three pass attempts for 140 yards and three scores and the Mustangs were perfect overall as sophomore quarterback Collin Tamm hit sophomore wideout Nathaniel Wardenburg for 24 yards on his only attempt of the night. On the ground, Merida was the leading rusher with 119 yards and two touchdowns while Dillon rushed for 77 yards and a score and Parsons added 63 yards and a score. Overall, Eldon put up 530 yards of total offense.
After allowing 48 points to Warsaw just a week ago, Eldon’s defensive unit was more vigilant with the defensive back Brandt and linebacker Walker hauling in an interception each while the unit had four tackles for a loss including two sacks. The defensive back Merida led the way with seven total tackles while Walker added six respectively.
“I thought we played better defensively,” Jolley stated. “We are adding some new things on the back end of our defense and tonight was a chance for us to work on it. I think we got some quality reps and I think there were a few things that were exposed as well, but those are things that will happen when you install new stuff. I’m comfortable and we put together a pretty good four quarters and got some other kids in tonight. We have to make sure we are ready for the Osage Indians.”
Eldon (6-1) will host Highway 54 rival Osage (4-3) Friday night at 7 p.m., and while the Mustangs will be focused on taking care of business at Victor Field, they also have some of their sights set on playoff football as well.
“We have a home game next week, but it is a game on our schedule that will put us one step closer to our goal of representing our district as the district champion and moving on in the state playoffs,” Jolley said. “That is the goal and we’ll find out how that works out, but that will depend on how hard we work this week and the things we do from here on out.”
Meanwhile, Versailles (2-5) will take a trip to Hallsville (4-3) at the same time. Silvers was pleased with the sparks his Tigers showed at multiple times throughout the night. Now, they just need to ignite the fire and put it all together by the time the playoffs arrive in three weeks.
Trotter rushed for 155 of the team's 193 rushing yards and a score. Through the air, Williams completed 15 of his 23 passes for 251 yards and two scores with Geier hauling in those two touchdown passes for 155 receiving yards on three catches. Wilson also had a big night for the Tigers as he pulled down 10 catches for 84 yards of his own.
“The offensive line did a great job,” the coach pointed out. “Michael ran for over 150 yards so hats off to him because he has never been a feature back before. He rant the ball extremely hard and I could not be more proud of our guys up front against a team that was probably a little bit bigger and stronger than us… Our receivers also did a great job tonight.
“Eldon is a good program, no doubt about it, and Hallsville is getting better. Everybody in our conference is tough and it is another challenge for us this week. We’ll have to watch some film and go back to work… clean up our side of it and make us a little better for week 10,” he added.
While the scoreboard shows there must be a winner and a loser, the cause that can never be lost is the overwhelming community support from Eldon and other area schools for Mustang junior Hunter Bushnell who was seriously injured in practice a couple of weeks ago. A check from Versailles was presented before the game and the Versailles coaching staff wore T-shirts with the No. 13 on the back to show solidarity and support.
“Coach Silvers and Coach (Darren) Koelling specifically have been good friends of mine for a long time. They spent a lot of time with me and helped us get things going in Eldon so there is a friendship there and a family atmosphere that we’ve always had and will continue to have,” Jolley said of his former assistants. “It definitely did not surprise me that they reached out and did that, but I could not have been more proud of their staff and the gesture that they sent out to not only our football team, but to Hunter.
Those guys mean a lot to me and always have. I think the type of people that they are is indicative of the gesture, not only with the shirts, but donations. They may not have been on the winning side on the scoreboard, but man I tell you what, they killed it off the field so we appreciate everything they have done,” the coach added.