The offense scored on all seven of its possessions, the defense made a crucial goal line stand and it all just may mean that the current batch of Tiger seniors will get to walk away as winners forever.
Coby Williams and his fellow Versailles seniors may have just played their final game on home turf.
If that just happens to be the case, the Tigers certainly made sure the proverbial curtain call was one to remember in a 49-26 win over Highway 52 neighbor Eldon Friday night. The offense scored on all seven of its possessions, the defense made a crucial goal line stand and it all just may mean that the current batch of Tiger seniors will get to walk away as winners forever.
“It definitely meant a lot to us. I mean we came out here ready to go, were all pumped up and wanted to give one last hoorah,” Williams said. “We never know if we are going to play here again.”
That will all depend on how the final district standings shake out with one regular season game left to play. Versailles will have to crack the top four seeds to guarantee one more home game and after Friday night’s win, the team sits in fifth place just two points behind a 4-4 El Dorado Springs team. Regardless, the Tigers seem to be clicking with two straight wins after an 0-6 start.
Versailles set the tone immediately, taking the opening kickoff and needing less than two minutes to score as Williams ran in a 17-yard touchdown. Eldon showed promise on its opening drive as well as the Mustangs marched 31 yards to the Versailles 28-yard line before senior fullback Kaden Dillon fumbled while shedding some tacklers. The Tigers responded with another quick strike, needing just over a minute for Williams to find senior wide receiver Dallas Waller for a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0.
But this game was far from over.
Eldon took the ensuing drive 63 yards and marched right into the end zone on a 2-yard Dillon touchdown run to start the second quarter and cut the gap to 14-6. The prize fight continued with both Lake area neighbors trading touchdowns for the next four drives.
Versailles threw its next haymaker when junior wideout Michael Bell caught a dart across the middle for a 54-yard touchdown reception and carried Mustangs with him into the end zone as his teammates helped push him across the line. Eldon countered with its ground attack and Dillon scored his second touchdown of the night on a 9-yard run to make it 20-12.
The two remaining minutes before halftime were anything but calm.
When Versailles senior Jordan King fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Mustangs took advantage and drove 39 yards to punch in the game-tying touchdown with 29 seconds remaining before the break. Facing a 4th-and-6 at the Tiger 24-yard line, junior running back Braydy Hill followed his blockers to the house and a 2-point conversion toss from sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy to Dillon evened the game at 20. Due to an illegal procedure on the ensuing kickoff as the ball went out of bounds, Williams needed about just 20 seconds to span 50 yards and found senior wideout Brayden Morrison for a 22-yard touchdown strike to give Versailles a 26-20 lead before halftime.
“We’ve been working all season and now it is finally starting to click when it matters. We are just going to keep on getting better and better from here on out I think,” Williams said of the connection with his receivers after throwing touchdown passes to three different Tigers.
“We just have a lot of kids that can make plays. I mean, it is not all me,” he added. “We got the line blocking, we got the receivers getting open and running routes hard so it is just a good old team effort. We have a good system here.”
Eldon got the start it needed in the second half as Hardy returned a squib kick to the Versailles 27 and Dillon added his third touchdown on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 26. However, Versailles senior Ryan Chamberlain set the Tigers up at the Mustang 30 on the next kickoff and Williams ran in for a score on 3rd-and-19. King’s 2-point conversion run put the Tigers up 34-26.
Eldon was poised to answer back once again, but Hardy suffered a game-ending knee injury on the next drive and the Mustangs turned to young freshman quarterback Dominic Luttrell to lead the charge. The freshman helped his team reach the Versailles 3-yard line, but the Mustangs were a yard shy of the first down on a Hill run on 4th-and-5 and turned the ball over on downs.
Eldon coach Chad Hult, who was pleased with the work his offense did most of the night converting first downs on long runs in the rush-heavy Wing-T offense, had no hesitation about the call.
“We were going to just run the ball and do what we do. It had been working all night so why wouldn’t you go to something that is working for you in that situation,” Hult said of the play. “Unfortunately, they made a better play than us.”
It was exactly what Versailles coach Broc Silvers was hoping to see as he told his team at halftime that it was going to take one big stop. The last thing he wanted was for the game to be determined by who had the ball last so the coach was glad his guys had the toughness to get it done.
“Unfortunately, their quarterback got hurt and it kind of made them one-dimensional because Hardy is a good, hard runner,” Silvers said of the Eldon offense. “They were getting us off tackle and that is their game. They were getting three and four (yards), we needed a tackle for a loss and weren’t getting them.
“A team that runs the ball all the time, that is what they do in practice and their kids are tough and really good at it.”
Hill led Eldon with 199 rushing yards and Dillon added 112 yards of his own. Hardy, the team’s second-leading rusher with 616 yards on the season, was held to -1 yards Friday night on just six carries as the team finished with 313 rushing yards overall.
Things did not fare much better for Eldon moving forward as Versailles marched 97 yards and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Brycen Reynolds. The Tigers were then able to take advantage of another fumble with the Mustangs backed up in their own territory at the 6-yard line and King plowed ahead for the final touchdown of the night from the wildcat formation.
Williams finished 12-13 for 242 yards through the air and led the rushing attack with 92 yards as he put together six total touchdowns. King added 33 rushing yards as the team rushed for 150 on the night. Bell led all receivers with four receptions for 129 yards while Waller added 88 yards on six catches and Morrison finished with two receptions for 25 yards of his own.
“Our kids fought pretty hard and just gave up too many big plays again,” Hult said of the final outcome.
“Trying to adjust is trying to keep those (Versailles) guys in front of you which is obviously harder than it sounds. They have great team speed and that is something we really lack so they exploited that pretty good.”
Eldon (1-7, 1-5 Tri-County Conference) will look to turn things around at home next week against rival Osage Friday night at 7 p.m. With the game also potentially having implications on district seeding, motivation should not be an issue.
“We are right there and we always talk about the Lake so they ought to be motivated for that game,” Hult said of his team's upcoming battle with the Indians.
“They do quite a few different things and I don’t know a ton about their personnel right now but I know they are going to be very well-coached and they play extremely hard.”
Versailles (2-6, 2-4 Tri-County Conference) visits Hallsville in the regular season finale Friday night at 7 p.m. Silvers expects a good test from a 6-2 team.
“We hopefully keep battling, playing, take one more step and see what we can do in the playoffs and make a little run there whether it is for a district title or not,” the coach said of the road ahead.
Regardless, he commended the contributions made by this senior class that helped the program reach a district title game last season and noted the team will be missing a good chunk of its heart and soul when they leave. He recalled laughing at the photos from his first season at Versailles when the current batch of seniors were just sixth graders at a camp.
“They are doing a great job and I know this season is not the wins or losses they thought they’d have but we are still playing well,” Silvers stated.
“Hopefully we keep after it and our kids have never lost faith or they would not have won these last two ballgames… We can only move forward. We are only guaranteed two more games so we are going to keep working and try to get these kids the best they can get.”