By Ryan Berry
XENIA — The Versailles Tigers took charge of their third round playoff game with Cincinnati Country Day (CCD) early and never looked back as they moved to the next round of the football tournament with a 55-13 win over the Nighthawks.
The Tigers traveled to Xenia for their neutral site match-up and it didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard. After a 69-yard kickoff return on the opening kickoff, Jace Watren found himself crossing the goal line with only 12 seconds having ticked off the clock. The extra point was good, and Versailles was up 7-0.
Coach Ryan Jones said, “Really proud of the guys. The kickoff return, Jace did a nice job there. It’s something we had been working on throughout the week. The guys did a good job of setting the tone. It’s something we talked about during the week and being physical. That started it off for sure.”
After the defense was able to get a quick three and out, the offense was able to put together a 59-yard drive that culminated with Joel Gehret taking the ball six yards to extend the lead. With 6:14 left in the first quarter, the Tigers were up 14-0.
The Tiger defense continued to stymie the Nighthawks and on their next drive, Levi Barga came away with an interception and set Versailles up on the CCD 28-yard line. Less than a minute after their previous touchdown, the Tigers were in the endzone again with a 12-yard run from Gehret. The extra point was good, and Versailles was up 21-0 with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
On the kickoff, CCD could not field the short kick and the Tigers were able to cover the free ball. Versailles had a short field, starting on the CCD 18-yard line. With 4:02 left in the first quarter, Gehret found the endzone again. The nine-yard run with the extra point and Versailles as up 28-0.
“We got turnovers early and those are huge,” said Coach Jones. “We were able then, on offense, to score off of those turnovers and make the most out of them. I thought the defense played well all night. That’s a team that moved the ball on the ground really effectively all year and they’ve got some really good linemen there and we struggled with them on both sides of the ball a little bit, but we held our ground. We were able to make some big stops there. We were able to force them to punt several times and got those key turnovers. Those are big in any big game like this.”
The Nighthawks were able to put a great drive together in the first quarter. After starting on their own 28-yard line, CCD was able to drive into Tiger territory and eventually get a 33-yard touchdown pass to narrow the score.
However, the Tigers came right back and a 41-yard pass reception from Michael Osborne to Gehret set the Tigers up on the three-yard line. Ross Francis finished the drive and took it in on the first play in the second quarter. Versailles was up 35-7.
The Tigers got two more scores in the first half with both coming from Gehret. He had runs of 23-yards and 56-yards to help put the Tigers up 49-7 at the break.
With a running clock in the second half, the starters were able to sit on the sidelines and watch while some of the younger players got an opportunity to play.
Erick Grow, Leland Bolin and Ben Subler were able to get interceptions for the Tigers in the second half. The defense made an incredible goal line stand in the fourth quarter. With CCD threatening to score on first and goal from the one, the Tigers defense stiffened up and kept the Nighthawk offense out of the endzone.
Jones said, “That was really neat to see. That’s what we talked about at halftime. If we get some of the younger guys in there this is your chance, make the most of it. To stop them four straight plays at the one was fantastic. It is something they’ll remember for sure.”
The Tigers picked up their final score of the game on an 11-yard run from Aaron Bowlin. The extra point was no good and the Tigers put 55 points on the board.
The Nighthawks scored as the game clock hit zero to make the final 55-13.
The Tigers will take on Anna next Friday night. The neutral site will be determined later.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].