A powerful rushing attack and a stout defense eventually wore down the Tigers and helped the visitors walk away with a 42-14 win.
As a former coach at Butler, Versailles coach Kirk Hannah has seen firsthand the kind of team Warsaw has become the past four years under Coach Ryan Boyer.
It is exactly the kind of program Hannah is hoping to develop at Versailles and it was on full display Friday night when the Wildcats came to town. A powerful rushing attack and a stout defense eventually wore down the Tigers and helped the visitors walk away with a 42-14 win.
“I just watched those kids grow up and what we are now is what they were like about four years ago. That is what we are trying to get to,” said Hannah, who is in his first season as the head man.
“We were worried about their physicality and their size, but I saw so many good things from our kids today that I did not see last week. I know for them, when they look at the scoreboard they don’t feel like anything good happened but for me, as a coach and for our staff, they are moving in the right direction. They still believe, and they are disappointed, but I feel like we are ready to come back to work every day and just continue to get better. I tis a process and we’ve talked to them about that.”
And while the final score may indicate otherwise, this contest was fairly closer midway through the third quarter with the Wildcats ahead by a pair of touchdowns. In many facets of the game, whether it was offense, defense or special teams, Warsaw just simply executed a little better out on the gridiron and took care of business down the stretch.
It began in the first quarter with sophomore running back Cameron Seevers who found some running room and dashed to the end zone from 11 yards out. Seevers also ran in a 2-point conversion to put Warsaw up early with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 14-0 in the second quarter when junior quarterback Brady Slavens rushed for a touchdown from the same distance and Slavens was back in the end zone with 3:02 remaining in the half on an 8-yard run. Senior running back Justin Martin added a 2-point conversion to build a comfortable 22-0 advantage before Versailles found an answer.
A sack on third down just before halftime looked like it would stall another drive for the Tiger offense, but a personal foul penalty gave Versailles new life. The team capitalized with a 4-yard quarterback keeper from junior Adam Radcliff with under a minute remaining to cut the gap to 22-7 at the break.
Warsaw came back out and extended its lead with the first drive of the second half on a 1-yard touchdown run from Seevers and the Wildcats maintained momentum by recovering an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. However, the Wildcats gave the ball right back on a fumble that was recovered by Versailles senior Max Coleman and the Tigers followed that up with a 46-yard screen pass from Radcliff to senior receiver Michael Bell for a touchdown.
“That was awesome because Mike works hard and we don’t throw the ball a lot. For us to throw it, what little we do, and for him to capitalize that- and a great block by Kannen Wilson on the edge- that play just developed the way it was drawn up so that was fun,” Hannah said of the touchdown pass.
Unfortunately for Versailles, the momentum did not last long as the Warsaw rushing attack found its rhythm once again. Martin found a hole on the next drive and delivered a 24-yard touchdown scamper while junior receiver James Kellner added a 2-point conversion and the Wildcats extended the lead to 36-14 before the end of the third quarter.
Warsaw ended up gaining all of its yards on the ground after attempting just six passes all evening. The Wildcats gained 446 rushing yards on 61 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per rush. Martin inflicted the most damage, rushing for 155 yards while Slavens added 132 rushing yards of his own.
“They just put so many people there and it is hard. We are undersized and they are big and physical,” Hannah said of the efforts to slow down the rushing game of Warsaw. “We want to be that team one day. We can teach our guys from that and tell them this is how we need to do it, too. We just weren’t big and physical enough on the edge to stop it.”
Warsaw left little doubt about the final outcome by recovering a second onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. This time, the Wildcats did not let the drive go to waste by capping it with a 5-yard touchdown run by Martin to wrap up the scoring for the evening.
“We did not execute our special teams very well, but we knew that is what they did coming in. We practiced it this week and it is hard,” Hannah said of recovering onside kicks. “When they are bearing down on you and you are just trying to make a catch right there, it is hard and I know it. Nobody felt worse than that kid and he’ll be fine. We’ll get it fixed.”
Radcliff finished the night 2-4 through the air for 47 yards and he was also the leading rusher for the Tigers with 39 yards on 15 carries. Bell had all 47 reciving yards and sophomore running back Tye Edgar provided 28 yards on the ground on three carries.
While the outcome is not what Versailles had in mind for Senior Night, the Tigers are glad they had the opportunity to celebrate them in the midst of a global pandemic. At different points in the fourth quarter, seniors were eventually subbed out of the game with each of their names being called by the public address announcer.
“We try to tell them they are helping to build this foundation. You just keep going, doing the things you are doing and keep showing these young guys,” Hannah said of his message to his senior bunch.
“It is the same every year. That group of seniors want to be the group that gets it turned around, but you have to start somewhere. That is the foundation and those guys have bought into that. I love them and I know this was not their last game and no tears shed, really, but who knows, it could have been,” Hannah continued, referring to the uncertainty of football season in a pandemic. “We just have to go on... We have to go get work done and we’ll continue to try to do that.”
Up next is Hallsville who is coming to town for the Tri-County Conference opener after a 34-28 loss at Centralia. Hannah knows his guys will have another tough test on hand.
“Hallsville is coming and they are as good as that team, if not better,” the coach said of the next opponent. “We have some film on them from their week one game and I just know from last year, Coach (Justin) Conyers is a good coach and he’ll have them ready to go. They’ll be every bit as big and physical and try to run the ball at us like we saw tonight. So, we’ll have to get our bumps and bruises healed and we’ll get back after them.”
Kickoff between Versailles (0-2) and Hallsville (1-1) is set for Friday night at 7 p.m.