Boonville's fast start leads to tough night for Versailles football

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Versailles senior Michael Bell runs the ball during a game against Boonville on Friday, October 9, in Versailles, In what was a tough night offensively for the Tigers, Bell caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.

The size and athleticism of Boonville was apparent and the Pirates quickly turned it into points Friday night at Versailles. 

Boonville was efficient in jumping out to a 27-0 lead after the first quarter and the Pirates scored on all but three of their possessions, the final one running the clock out, as they cruised to a 54-6 Tri-County Conference win. 

It was just the second straight game and fourth overall that Versailles got to play after dealing with coronavirus concerns for nearly a month. Boonville, playing its seventh game of the season, put together 411 total yards of offense with 331 of those yards coming on the ground while the Tigers racked up 184 yards of their own.

“Everywhere,” Versailles coach Kirk Hannah pointed out when it came to Boonville’s athleticism. “We tried to run the ball, that is what we try to do and we couldn’t. They are too big up front and we were missing two starting offensive linemen so we had to put sophomores out there. Those guys did a great job and I cannot blame them. They are going against seniors who are really good players and they were outsized and outmanned.

“They are athletic everywhere so it was tough for us, but I think I saw more positives tonight than maybe I did last week at California,” Hannah continued, referring to his program’s first game back on the field. “I’m hoping we can build on those positives going into next week… Maybe we can find some more good positives moving towards the playoffs.”  

Boonville got started on its opening drive with a 41-yard screen pass touchdown from sophomore quarterback Colby Caton to junior DaWan Lomax who raced up the sideline to make it 6-0 early. After a Versailles punt, the Pirates marched right back down the field on a 62-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown run from senior Andrew Wiser to put the Pirates up 13-0. 

A pair of turnovers did not make things any easier going forward.

An interception by Boonville junior defensive lineman Peyton Hahn on an attempted shovel pass from Versailles senior quarterback Adam Radcliff set up the next scoring drive where Wiser was back in the end zone for the second time on a 3-yard run. Facing a 4th-and-5 down 20 on their own 44-yard line, the Tigers opted for a fake punt pass and senior Michael Bell was intercepted by Boonville senior Lane West after his pass was originally batted at the line of scrimmage. West found some running room and took it to the house to quickly make it 27-0. 

Boonville’s clockwork-like efficiency continued as its first drive of the second quarter went 64 yards and ended with a 3-yard quarterback keeper from Caton to extend the Pirate lead to 34-0. Not long after, Wiser found some open space and galloped to the end zone on an 84-yard run on the first play of the ensuing Pirate possession to make it 41-0. 

Versailles found an answer on the next drive, though, as Radcliff hit Bell for a 66-yard touchdown pass where the senior receiver used a spin move and his elusiveness to outrun defenders to the end zone. It may have been a tough night overall, but Radcliff and Bell found a little rhythm, connecting on six passes for 124 yards before the night was through. 

“Adam plays so hard and has come so far. Not that he didn’t play hard, but he is like, ‘I am ok and I want the ball in my hands, and he did that and found Bell,” Hannah said of his quarterback who completed eight of his 17 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while also rushing for another 33 yards with some tough runs. “We’ve been trying to make an effort to get the ball to our receivers a little bit more and maybe back some people off, get them away from the line of scrimmage and open up the run game. If they crowd the line of scrimmage we can hopefully get the ball to Michael because when he gets in open space he is pretty tough and it was fun for him and Adam to connect on that. They connect on it in practice and it is nice to see them do it in a game against their number ones (starters).” 

Meanwhile, Versailles senior running back Tres Powers tallied a pair of carries for nine yards as the team finished with 38 rushing yards overall and junior Cole Wilson caught three passes for 22 yards.

Bell went on to punch the ball out of Caton’s hands on the next drive after his touchdown catch and force a turnover as the Boonville quarterback sought to make a run in the red zone and fumbled. Starting on their own 6-yard line, the Tigers could not get much going on the offensive end and the Pirates were soon back to their efficient ways with a 4-yard touchdown run from senior Spencer Steakley with just over three minutes left before halftime. Lomax scored the final touchdown of the night towards the end of the third quarter on a 28-yard dash. 

Wiser finished the night with nine carries for 155 yards, Caton added 43 rushing yards and junior D.J. Wesolak added 35 rushing yards for Boonville. Lomax finished with two catches for 46 yards and junior Jamesian McKee caught a pair of passes for 20 yards.

“We tried to go base defense because they run so much motion and they are five-wide sometimes and four-wide sometimes,” Hannah said of his team’s efforts to try and slow down Boonville. “They run so much read stuff we thought, ‘Don’t make the kids think. Just let them play defense,’ and once they get locked up on your defensive backs, ours are not very big and their receivers are. It is just hard to get off those blocks and it is tough for us, it is what it is.”  

Keeping things in perspective, Boonville is just one of several Class 3 teams that Class 2 Versailles faces every year in the conference grind. The Tigers fall to 0-4 on the season and 0-2 in conference play, but all roads lead to districts in a few weeks where Versailles will get to face schools much closer to its own size. 

“We try to keep them updated on our district because we know that is where our focus is. We are not going to win a conference championship and we know that, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Hannah noted. “We are going to play teams in the playoffs that are like Versailles- same size, same roster type. That is what we try to keep them focused on and when we get out there and play somebody like that, maybe it won’t be quite as overwhelming a task as it has been the last couple of weeks.”

At the same time, one of the good things about the level of the competition in the conference is that it may prepare this Versailles team for those postseason battles.

“If we are healthy, it can. Week in and week out when you take on teams like this, it is a grind on you,” Hannah continued. “But I think if they see that silver lining coming up late in the season and we can get our kids back that are gone right now, maybe we can make some hay in our district.”  

Versailles will hit the road next week to face Lake area neighbor Osage (2-5, 1-3 TCC) in another conference showdown on Friday night at 7 p.m. The Indians are coming off a 48-21 loss to Christian out of O’Fallon after the scheduled conference matchup with Southern Boone was cancelled due to coronavirus issues.