By Drew Terhall
WAPAKONETA — The Versailles Tigers football team is heading back to Canton. The Tigers defeated Columbus Grove, 30-13, at Mercy Health Wapak Ford Field on Nov. 24 in the OHSAA Division VI football State Semifinals.
It wasn’t an ideal start for the Tigers. Senior Michael Osborne was picked off on the team’s first possession of the game and Columbus Grove took it down to the Versailles four-yard line.
From there, the Bulldogs scored a four-yard rushing touchdown on fourth down to go up 7-0 early. Head coach Ryan Jones said they expected a great team like Columbus Grove to make some great plays.
He was thrilled to see how his team responded after that.
“Really proud of the way they fought through some of those adversities, especially that interception early on. That was a great performance there. Defense did a great job all night,” Jones said.
From the second quarter on, it was all Versailles. The quarter started with a 26-yard field goal make by senior Joel Gehret.
On the ensuing kickoff, Versailles recovered a fumble and set up shop at the Columbus Grove seven-yard line. Osborne snuck it in from one yard out to take a 10-7 lead 49 seconds into the second quarter.
After a Bulldog punt that gave the Tigers the ball at the Columbus Grove 46-yard line, Versailles drove down and Gehret scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown.
With seconds left in the first half, Osborne found junior Jace Watren for a 23-yard touchdown pass to be up 23-7 at halftime.
Sort of like in the first half, Columbus Grove scored on their first possession of the half on a six-yard touchdown run after they drove down the field.
Versailles got the stop on the two-point conversion to keep it a two score game. At the start of the fourth quarter, Gehret made it a three score game on a two-yard touchdown run.
With 9:22 left in the fourth quarter, Osborne got an interception to give Versailles the ball on their own three-yard line.
Leaning on their running game, Versailles drove down the field and eventually turned it over on downs with only 1:46 left in the game.
Jones said the players ran hard in the run game and the offensive line did a great job technique wise to open up holes against a bigger Columbus Grove defensive line.
“Proud of the way our offense responded after that initial drive in third quarter where the Bulldogs put it in the endzone. And we were able to march the ball down the field and get a touchdown,” Jones said. “Then toward the end here in the fourth quarter, when we needed to run the ball when everyone knew we had we moved it down the field and drained the clock. We didn’t get a score out of it, but what we got was just as good.”
It wasn’t just Osborne and Gehret carrying the work load in the running game. With the Bulldogs trying to limit Osborne’s impact rushing, senior Lane Bergman got some carries on jet sweeps.
Jones said Night Train Lane got a chance to show what kind of athlete he is with the help of his teammates.
“We rode the Night Train tonight, all the way to Canton. That was a great performance by him. Usually, he’s catching balls but today he did a great running and our blocks were really well on the perimeter. I thought the receivers did a good job blocking down field,” Jones said.
The defense stepped up huge as well with three interceptions. Senior A.J. Griesdorn helped set up the late touchdown in the first half on an interception on fourth down. Osbrone’s interception helped the team bleed out the clock. Bergman had an interception to ice the game late.
Jones said he is happy to see this team get the win after facing adversity early. The team fought through it to earn a spot in the State Championship game.
“Happy for the guys, for them to win this game. Really proud of them, couldn’t be more proud to be their head coach. It’s a great group kids, I love these guys. Just thank the Lord for this opportunity to be here,” Jones said.
The Tigers will face Kirtland in the Division VI football State Championship game on Dec. 1 at 10:30 a.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
The last time the Tigers were in Canton was in 2021 in the Division V State Championship game against Kirtland. They won 20-16 against an undefeated Kirtland team.
Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]