Versailles opened up its season with a familiar foe in Knob Noster Friday night and unfortunately for the Tigers, it seems any lingering jitters never quite went away as six total turnovers led to a 50-20 defeat for the preseason 10th-ranked Class 2 team in the state.

The first game of any football season may always be accompanied by a few jitters as teams shake off the proverbial cobwebs and get back to the grind on the gridiron. 

Versailles opened up its season with a familiar foe in Knob Noster Friday night and unfortunately for the Tigers, it seems any lingering jitters never quite went away as six total turnovers led to a 50-20 defeat for the preseason 10th-ranked Class 2 team in the state. 

“Everything that could have went wrong in the first half did from the opening kickoff,” said Versailles coach Broc Silvers whose team fell to Knob Noster in the season opener last year as well. “Everything that could have went bad did and we had this happen last year. We’ve got to do a better job, be ready to go next week, respond and look at what we can do from here.”

The night got off to a wild start as the first two plays from scrimmage led to a touchdown for both sides. Knob Noster got on the board first and never trailed, recovering the opening kickoff at the Tiger 16-yard line and promptly following it up with a 16-yard run to the end zone on a quarterback keeper. Versailles quickly responded as senior Dallas Waller returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Panther 3-yard line and senior quarterback Coby Williams did the rest on his own quarterback keeper to cut the deficit to 7-6 after a missed extra point.

It seemed the momentum was shifting back to Versailles as senior defensive back Payton LaFoy recovered a Knob Noster fumble on his own 35-yard line, but an empty possession gave the Panthers the ball back and they did not disappoint. Knob Noster responded with a 58-yard drive and a 4-yard quarterback keeper extended the Panther lead to 14-6. 

From that point on, the momentum solidly belonged to the visitors as the miscues piled on and gave Knob Noster satisfying field position to start their offensive drives.

Versailles’ next possession resulted in a blocked punt that allowed Knob Noster to start at the Tiger 19-yard line and was followed up by the first of three interceptions from Williams. Both led to two more Knob Noster rushing touchdowns on runs of two yards and one yard respectively. The woes only continued for Versailles as the Panthers recovered a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff at the Versailles 36-yard line and picked off Williams for a second time at the 50-yard line that led to touchdown runs of 13 yards and 30 yards. 

Versailles showed some life just before halftime with a 35-yard drive to the Knob Noster 24-yard line, but the Tigers came up empty-handed and walked back to the locker rooms trailing 43-6.  

“They’ve got two really good backs and their quarterback did an adequate job. He did not have to be the ‘man’ tonight,” Silvers said of a Knob Noster team that rushed for 238 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry, while only attempting one single pass that actually came on a jet sweep. “They were more physical than we were and that is a tough pill to swallow sometimes because you try to pride yourself on being physical on defense. We have some work to do.”

Knob Noster opened up the scoring in the second half on a 7-yard touchdown run after Williams’ final interception of the evening. The returning All-State quarterback had thrown just seven interceptions the entire 2018 season while racking up 1,783 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in a productive junior campaign.

“He might have been trying to do too much by himself and sometimes that happens with a kid who had a good junior year,” Silvers said of his quarterback. “The kid has been there and done that and I think in the second half he kind of settled down there and made some better decisions. 

“A couple of those are on me so we’ll look at it and keep going from there,” he added, noting that the Panther defense presented some looks Versailles was not quite expecting.

That was not the end for Versailles, though, as the Tigers put together a couple more highlights before the night was through. Versailles capped a 60-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Waller and the final play of the game was a 65-yard bomb from Williams to sophomore receiver Adam Radcliff on a streak up the middle after a roughing the passer penalty.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot a lot tonight and if we quit doing that and put together some decent drives we’ll be ok,” Silvers said. “We’ve got a long way to go and I know this is cliche, but you normally see the most improvement from week one to week two and hopefully the same thing for us.”

Williams finished his night completing 13 of his 27 passes for 142 yards and was also the team’s leading rusher with 87 yards on 19 carries. Senior running back Jordan King added 33 yards on nine carries of his own on the ground. Meanwhile, Radcliff led all receivers with his 65-yard catch, Waller pulled in five passes for 30 yards and senior receiver Brayden Morrison caught four passes for 21 yards.

Versailles will host Buffalo Friday night and the Tigers will be looking to rebound like they did last year where they followed up a tough defeat from Knob Noster with a 35-21 win over the Bison. With last year’s film to study, another week of practice ahead and now having a full game behind them, Silvers said his team should be more prepared for that challenge than the season opener. Making history repeat itself will not be an easy task, though.

“Buffalo is a good ball club. They’ve got a lot of speed back so it will be pretty good,” Silvers said, looking ahead to next week’s contest. “We’ll be back home, hopefully we’ll get some things fixed and have a good week of work.”

Time will tell if Versailles can do just that as the Tigers get ready for another kickoff at 7 p.m.