After securing the program’s first playoff win in his five-year tenure with the Tigers under the current playoff format, Coach Broc Silvers and company have their sights set on some bigger aspirations.
Versailles got a taste of playoff victory a season ago. Now, the Tigers are hungry for more.
After grinding through a tough regular season that produced a 2-7 finish, Versailles went on the road in week 10 and downed El Dorado Springs 34-29 in the first round of the district playoffs before concluding the year at 3-8 with a 57-26 defeat at Fair Grove. Being a Class 2 school in the Tri-County Conference with some Class 3 opponents, Coach Broc Silvers knows it is not how one starts, but how they finish. After securing the program’s first playoff win in his five-year tenure with the Tigers under the current playoff format, Silvers and company have their sights set on some bigger aspirations.
“We were 3-3 versus Class 2 opponents,” Silvers pointed out to Mid-Missouri Pigskin Preview.
“We have a great core of student-athletes who have been in our program for a few years now. We have also put together a great coaching staff that is working hard to put our athletes in positions to make plays. We know we play in a tough conference, but we expect to be able to compete with anyone in our district this year and playing schools that are bigger than us should help us come weeks 10, 11 and 12.”
Any goals the team may have in mind may certainly be more attainable after the program saw an increase in its numbers over the summer and Silvers was also pleased with the performance at team camp where the Tigers had the privilege of facing seven other schools.
“We had a pretty good summer and we actually picked up some more guys. We average about 30 in the summer and now we are over 40,” the coach noted to Game Night. “Sometimes you have to try and catch a guy up because he has not been here, but we are never going to turn anybody away obviously that is willing and able to play.”
Those numbers also help to alleviate the number of plays a player may see in a game and keep the roster energized.
“We have to be able to rotate kids, keep kids fresh and not play kids 200 snaps a game or whatever we get,” Silvers said. “We’ll have certain personnel in and what it has done is allowed some kids to get some built-in breaks and keep them fresh for both sides of the ball. We did not come up with that until week three or four last year and I think that will help us hit the ground running in week one.”
It is a strategy that the starters will likely not object to.
The Tigers bring back the most experience on the defensive side of the ball with eight returning starters who will seek to trim down on the 287 rushing yards, 103.6 passing yards and 40.2 points per game allowed in the 4-2-5 formation in 2017.
The defensive line up front in the trenches will feature the return of junior Riley Rademann who earned 2nd Team All-District honors last season after recording 38 tackles. He will be joined by fellow junior defensive end Quinn Randall, who saw time at linebacker a season ago, along with a pair of edge rushers in juniors Kaden McGinnis and Ryan Chamberlain. The man in the middle will be senior Trenton Owsley who will be called upon to plug up the middle at defensive tackle with a frame measuring at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds.
“Defensively, our defensive line is actually our deepest just because we have some more athletes that played defensive line,” Silvers told Game Night this summer. “I like the rotation we have there and those guys played better than I expected them to play.”
Should anyone sneak by, they will likely have to contend with last year’s leading tackler in senior linebacker Michael Trotter. The tackling machine recorded 141 tackles in 2017, including 15 for a loss (school record) with two sacks and an interception, to earn a 2nd Team All-Conference nod. The rest of the linebacking corps includes junior Gage Tessier (48 tackles), junior Brycen Reynolds (31 tackles) and sophomore Ben Dornan.
The Tiger secondary also returns plenty of experience with both starting cornerbacks in senior Wyatt Espinosa and junior Brayden Morrision back for more this fall. Espinosa led the defense with four interceptions last season and recorded 44 tackles to pick up All-Conference Honorable Mention honors while Morrision will be eager to build upon his nine tackles, including two for a loss, after missing most of the 2017 season. Junior free safety Coby Williams (53 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one interception) will also look to keep things in check as the team’s second-leading returning tackler. Some other faces to keep an eye on are senior Colbey Boicourt, junior Payton Lafoy and sophomores Max Coleman and Michael Bell.
The experience should help, but having a new defensive coordinator in town may also add some energy and have Tigers flying to the ball.
“We will have to blitz more this year to put pressure on offenses. We hired a new defensive coordinator in Aaron Allen and we hope his energy translates to more success,” the coach explained to Mid-Missouri Pigskin Preview.
Offensively, Versailles returns seven starters to a unit that broke some school records while producing 290 yards per game, including 160 through the air and 158 on the ground, while posting 21.7 points per outing respectively in the spread-style offense.
Junior dual-threat quarterback Coby Williams will be back to take the snaps and lead the unit once more. In his sophomore campaign, Williams threw for 1,545 yards (school record) and rushed for 367 more to create 20 total touchdowns and earn 1st Team All-District recognition. The junior gunslinger also broke a school record for touchdown passes in a single game with four.
Protecting Williams up front and creating some room for ball carriers will be a trio of veterans juniors who have spent the past two years together as starters. Rademann will start at left tackle while Tessier, a 2nd Team All-District player, anchors one of the guard spots and Randall starts at center. The rest of the line will feature Owsley at right tackle and Chamberlain in the other guard spot. Together, the front wall averages 211 pounds.
In the backfield, Trotter will be called upon to lead the ground game as he transitions from his role at fullback where he put up 271 rushing yards (6.5 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Coleman and Dornan will also provide some fresh legs for the Tigers.
The receiving corps will provide the most depth for the Versailles offense. It will not be easy to replace the speedy and reliable Kooper Wilson who broke multiple school records including single-season receptions (57), single-game catches (10) and single-season receiving yards (768) while hauling in five touchdown receptions. However, the Tigers should have plenty of options for Williams.
Espinosa (18 receptions, 221 yards, 1 touchdown) will lead the way while Morrison (3 receptions, 57 yards, 2 touchdowns) will look to increase his production after limited action last season. Lafoy also provides some experience while Boicourt, Bell and McGinnis will all look to make their mark. A newcomer in junior Dallas Waller could also add some versatility with his background as a three-sport athlete.
“We have five or six guys that can play receiver for us right now so we have depth there. I like everybody else, but we don’t have a lot of depth and by depth I mean upperclassmen ready to fill in,” Silvers told Game Night. “I like who we have, but we are just not that deep yet.”
Of course, staying healthy will always be key for any team and the ability to move the chains will always begin with the offensive line.
“We will be as good as our offensive line plays this year. We should continue to improve with seven returning starters as long as we stay healthy,” Silvers told Mid-Missouri Pigskin Preview.
Versailles has experience, more numbers and a playoff win in the back pocket. Now, it is all about hosting a playoff game in pursuit of a district title and beyond.
“Hopefully we’ll get to a district title and if we win it, then our next sight will be the next step up. We just want to keep building this program” the coach said of the team’s ambitions. “I like where we are headed, I like the coaching staff I have and so the goal is to keep it flowing and keep it going uphill.
“It has been a battle for the last five years. Football is not an easy game to coach or play and our conference is pretty good, and really good at times, so we have to do a good job of staying after it, keep grinding and doing everything we can to help our kids keep having success.”
The journey will begin on August 24 when the Tigers visit Knob Noster at 7 p.m.
WEEK 1 TALE OF THE TAPE
Versailles 2017 Finish: 3-8
Knob Noster 2017 Finish: 5-7
Versailles 2017 PF: 19.8
Versailles 2017 PA: 40.2
Knob Noster 2017 PF: 26.2
Knob Noster 2017 PA: 29.8