Versailles football team seeks playoff appearance


VERSAILLES – Versailles has a strong group of upperclassmen whom the Tigers will depend on as they seek to qualify for the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs in 2017.

This year the Versailles football team is seeking its first postseason appearance since 2014 when the Tigers reached the regional semifinals of the tournament before being knocked out by eventual state champion Minster.

Versailles will have plenty of opportunities to earn playoff points this season as its schedule includes Division III Celina, who went 5-5 last year, and Division VI Delphos Jefferson, who went 9-1 and reached the second round of the playoffs.

After those tough non-conference games, Versailles goes into Midwest Athletic Conference play where the schedule only gets tougher. The conference has sent three teams to the state finals in each of the past three seasons.

The fortunate thing for the Tigers is that they are in Division V along with Anna while the rest of the MAC is in Divisions VI and VII. That means if Versailles would make the playoffs it would avoid most of its conference rivals in the postseason, unlike the Division VI squads including Coldwater, Fort Recovery, Marion Local and St. Henry, which appear poised to cannibalize each other come November.

“We have a lot higher chance of missing a MAC team if we make it to the playoffs than if we made it in Division VI,” Miller said. “I think Division VI in the southwest region is going to be a bloodbath.”

To get to the playoffs Versailles will depend on a roster that includes 10 seniors. The Tigers also have a good group of juniors but then have a steep drop-off in terms of experience.

“Our first group on both sides of the ball we feel pretty comfortable with, but all of our backups seems to be sophomores, and they inexperienced,” Miller said. “We feel good about our first group, but then if we have any injuries or we’ve got to sub guys if they’re getting tired we get inexperienced in a hurry.”

Versailles will run the same schemes as last year, and on offense will continue to establish the run first.

“We’re definitely going to establish the run first,” Miller said. “Ideally we’d like to have close to an even run-pass ratio, but when in doubt we’re going to try to run the ball.”

At quarterback Versailles has senior Noah Waymire, who saw some varsity action at the end of last season.

Behind Waymire, Garrett Thompson returns to man the fullback position.

“He was one of our offensive MVPs so we’ve got high expectations for him,” Miller said.

Versailles will go for a committee of running backs with George Grow, Kurtis Rutschilling and Noah Grisez all in the mix.

“All three of those guys are very good running backs,” Miller said. “They all start on defense so we’re going to have some type of rotation to try to keep guys fresh.”

AJ Ahrens, who has started since his sophomore season, returns to start at tight end. Andrew DeMange will start at wide receiver with Derek Cavin also in the mix for playing time.

Along the line, Versailles will depend on five new starters.

“Offensive line we graduated five seniors last year so we’ve definitely got some shoes to fill,” Miller said.

Levi Sherman will start at center and will be flanked by Tyler Gigandet and Ben Albers at guard. Jeffery Ware and Louden Keihl will start at tackle.

Most of the linemen saw some varsity time last year on defense or special teams, which should help them transition to starting along the offensive line.

“It’s been a little easier transition than I thought, but after them we get the sophomores at that’s where we’ve just got to try to improve every day,” Miller said.

Sherman and Ware will start at defensive tackle this year. Ahrens, Cavin and Evan Hiestand will split time at the defensive end positions.

Albers will start at middle linebacker alongside outside linebackers Rutschilling and Grisez.

Grow and DeMange are slated to start at safety while Josh Steinbrunner will start one cornerback spot. Opposite of Steinbrunner, Jake Poling and Michael Stammen are battling for playing time.

After going 5-5 overall and 4-4 in the conference last year, Miller thinks Versailles can be a competitor in the MAC this season. Ultimately the Tigers’ season could come down to how they perform in a few games against the other middle tier teams in the MAC.

“That middle tier, it’s a dogfight,” Miller said. “There’s basically four games it seems like every year that if they go your way you could be 8-2, 9-1. If they don’t go your way you could go 3-7 or 4-6. It’s kind of a big swing between those. I feel like we can definitely compete with every team in the MAC this year.”

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Versailles is depending on its veteran leaders in its quest to qualify for the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs.
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/08/web1_Versailles-WEB.jpgVersailles is depending on its veteran leaders in its quest to qualify for the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs. Photo courtesy of the Versailles Policy

By Kyle Shaner

kshaner@dailyadvocate.com

Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.