Another Lake area showdown has arrived and both teams are hungry for a win.
Another Lake area showdown has arrived and both teams are hungry for a win.
Versailles (0-4, 0-2 Tri-County Conference) is visiting Osage (2-5, 1-3 TCC) Friday night where one side is looking to find its stride and first win of the season after coronavirus issues sidelined the team for about a month and the other is looking for its first win in over a month since defeating another Lake area rival. The gridiron has shown both the Indians and Tigers some tough times in 2020 and this clash is bound to give one of these sides a needed boost with the regular season finale ahead next week and the first round of the district playoffs to follow.
The show is slated to get underway at 7 p.m.
Versailles won last season’s battle on home turf, 34-13.
VERSAILLES KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Eyes on the Prize
Bragging rights should always be more than enough motivation to take care of business Friday night, but Versailles is also looking to take care of the business of playoff football where the Class 2 Tigers will face teams much closer to its own size as opposed to many of the Class 3 teams the program faces during the grind of conference play. With only 10 guaranteed games in any given year, the coronavirus pandemic may have already taken away 30 percent of this team’s season so finding some rhythm in the third game back from COVID-19 issues in what will only be the fifth game of the season is vital in this final stretch. If the Tigers can add a little momentum in these final two regular season games against Lake area rivals, this team just may find a little magic right in time for the playoffs and get some of those missed games back as they fight to extend the season week by week.
2. Find Some Balance
Any football team may have a formula or plan of attack for success each week based upon its strengths, but the best offenses find a way to get the run and pass to compliment each other. Versailles emphasizes the running game under Coach Kirk Hannah’s scheme, but a healthy passing game can help open things up on the ground and that is precisely what the coach pointed out after last week’s 54-6 loss to Boonville where the team finished with just 38 rushing yards on the night. The passing game has seen just a little more success than the run so far this season, but one who can help open things up is senior receiver Michael Bell who is currently the team’s leading receiver at 16 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, senior quarterback Adam Radcliff is currently 26-46 for 293 yards and three touchdowns and interceptions and senior back Max Coleman has caught a pair of passes for 29 yards while junior back Cole Wilson has logged three receptions for 22 yards. On the ground, Radcliff is currently the leading rusher with 54 carries for 148 yards (2.7 yards per carry) and one score while Coleman has logged 70 rushing yards on 29 carries (2.4 yards per carry) and sophomore Tye Edgar is at 12 rushes for 66 yards (5.5 yards per carry). Versailles will be facing a defense that has given up some big plays, allowing 47.9 points per game, so this may be the week the Tigers can get the chains moving.
3. Stay Aggressive on the Front Line
Versailles has already faced some potent rushing attacks in 2020, allowing 9.3 yards per rush, and Osage will surely look to take advantage of this with an offensive line averaging 263 pounds across. The Indians have traditionally used a balanced style of attack between the run and pass, but the running game has been especially successful in 2020 with the team already eclipsing 2,000 rushing yards on the season averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Overall, Osage averages 460 yards and 33.9 points per game with 297.7 of those yards coming from the rush and 162.3 coming from the air and the Indians have multiple contributors the Tigers will have to keep in check. Junior quarterback Brockton McLaughlin has led the way as a mobile quarterback who can spread the ball around and move the chains with feet as the leading rusher. McLaughlin did not play in last week’s 48-21 loss to Christian and if he is unable to go this week, Osage may place more emphasis on the ground game to take some pressure off sophomore quarterback Konner Vaughn who got his first start last week. Vaughn can move, too, after rushing for 88 yards and a score last week and perhaps the biggest emerging threat is fellow sophomore Eric Hood who has rushed for 479 yards and four touchdowns in just the last three weeks alone, nearly putting up over 200 yards in back-to-back weeks. Seniors Jack Creasy and Kenan Webb have also already crossed the century mark running the football and the Indians also have four receivers who have done the same in the passing game so the Tigers will have no choice but to stay sharp from sideline to sideline.
OSAGE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Go Have Fun
It is never how a team starts but how a team finishes and Osage will get to determine that in these final two weeks of the regular season and the upcoming district playoffs. Losing is obviously not enjoyable for any team and it has been a grind of the Indians lately as they seek to halt a four-game skid and get back on the right track. Capitalizing on the strengths and maintaining a short memory, not dwelling but learning from the mistakes of the past, will help this team do just that. The Indians are currently the fourth seed in their district standings and these final two weeks will determine whether the team starts its playoffs at home or on the road. Friday night may be the final time Osage is at home this season and it is Homecoming so that should serve as more than enough motivation to protect home turf at least one more time and make the Homecoming festivities that much more enjoyable.
2. Stay Consistent
School of the Osage has already proven it has the weapons to put up points in a hurry, scoring 41 points or more in about half of the seven games the team has played this season. On the ground or in the air, the Indians have the luxury of not having to rely on a few key players to move the chains but consistency can make this offense even more potent. From time to time it has been the turnovers that has stopped this team more than the opposing defense so eliminate those and this team should be in business on the offensive end. Versailles’ defense is currently allowing 46.3 points per outing with each opponent finding success in the rushing attack so that just may be the best way for the “Blackfoot” (offensive line) and the Indians to move the chains. Despite missing last week, McLaughlin remains the team’s top rusher with 67 carries for 705 yards (10.5 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. Meanwhile, Hood has quickly risen through the ranks, becoming a big rushing threat with 54 carries for 479 yards (8.9 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in just the last three weeks. Creasy is currently at 51 carries for 374 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and four scores, and Webb has totaled 53 carries for 295 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and three scores to keep the ground game fresh as well. Osage can certainly pass it, too, should Versailles decide to crowd the line. McLaughlin is currently 74-106 for 1,017 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions and Vaughn went 11-28 for 119 yards and three interceptions in his first start last week. Sophomore Hunter Graber remains the team’s top target with 28 receptions for 402 yards and four touchdowns while senior Drew Elley is at 19 catches for 268 yards and two scores and junior Keigan Vaughn has 13 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Out of the backfield, Webb has totaled 12 catches for 106 yards while Hood has caught three passes for 79 yards. The weapons are there, it just comes down to execution.
3. Disrupt The Connection
In the games Versailles has played so far this season, one of the top trends has been the connection between Radcliff and Bell in the passing attack. In fact, just those two players, whether it has been the passing or running game, have been responsible for 75 percent of the team’s offense overall in 2020 and all but one of the touchdowns as Bell has logged 76 percent of the team’s receiving yards. So, stopping that connection and keeping the duo out of rhythm will be vital for Osage to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard. Versailles currently averages 72.8 rushing yards, 75.8 passing yards and 148.5 total yards per game to go with 8.5 points per game and the Tigers ideally like to run the ball if the running lanes are open. Radcliff’s elusiveness has allowed the quarterback to find some of those lanes as the team’s top rusher and Coleman has been capable of doing damage as well so the Indians will have to stay sharp in the trenches to make sure they don’t find much space. The biggest key may be the secondary this week as Bell has caught a touchdown pass in three straight weeks for Versailles and has a knack for making big plays, coming off a game against Boonville where he caught six passes for 124 yards. He will have to be accounted for at all times.