Versailles football ends 2023 season as Division VI State runner-ups


By Drew Terhall

CANTON — The Versailles football team end their 2023 season 13-3 and as state runner-ups as they lost to Kirtland, 32-15, in the Division VI State Championship game.

Head coach Ryan Jones said the team played like they have all year, they played together and until the end. It all starts with the senior class setting the example of playing as one.

“Extremely proud of this football team. It’s been a very special year, what they’ve accomplished has been tremendous. These four guys represent a senior class that’s worked extremely hard, put in a lot of time, lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice. I love these guys and I would do anything for them,” Jones said.

It was a game where the ball didn’t bounce Versailles way. Kirtland recovered two fumbles in the endzone for touchdowns and recovered a muffed punt.

After Kirtland recovered the first fumble for a touchdown, senior Will Beers rushed for a six-yard touchdown for a 13-0 lead after junior James Schmitmeyer blocked the PAT.

On the next drive, senior Michael Osborne found senior A.J. Griesdorn for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make it a 13-7 game.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Beers returned the kickoff for a Division VI state championship record 90-yard touchdown return to take a 19-7 lead.

Jones said no matter how the opposing team responds, his team has to find a way to shift their focus onto the next play.

“It’s a quick high and a quick low. You try to recover, make sure we keep our focus. We talk about all year how there’s going highs and lows in any of these types of games. Especially whenyou’re going up against a good opponent. We preach how to deal with those setbacks,” Jones said. “How to overcome adversity, keep your poise, keep your focus and just go on to the next play and not dwell on what already happened.”

As the first half came to an end, Versailles stopped Kirtland at the one-yard line to go into the half only down 19-7.

The Tigers couldn’t get the running game going. Senior Joel Gehret was held in check the whole game and Osborne only got a few chunk plays.

Jones said it boiled down to Kirtland having a fast and athletic defense. He also said the team need to pass to open up the running game and they just couldn’t get enough plays from the passing game to get the running game going.

The running game for Kirtland took over the game in the second half. Sophomore Jake LaVerde ran 72 yards to get down to the two-yard line. Senior Rocco Alfieri scored to go up 25-7. They then ran down the clock for 9 minutes and 28 seconds towards the end of the fourth quarter and scored on another fumble recovery.

Jones said Kirtland had a strong running game that just got the better of them.

“It’s an extremely well coached team. Coach LaVerde does a fantastic job here in what he’e been able to accomplish with the Kirtland program is quite remarkable. The consistency and the year in and year out level of excellence. Really happy with the way we prepared all week. I thought our defense did a great job today, just ran up against a really good team and they made a few more plays than us,” Jones said.

The Tigers didn’t go away quietly. They went down the field and Osborne scored on a five-yard run. They got the two-point conversion to make it a 32-15 game.

Jones said he was proud to see his team keep fighting as that’s who they are. That’s how Tiger Ball is played.

Versailles will graduate 18 seniors from this team. It was that class second time in Canton after they went to the championship game in 2021.

Jones said to keep this program rolling, they will have to keep doing what they’ve done the past few years. Keep focusing on the daily objectives and how they approach them.

It’s about focusing on the process. If the next class of kids can do that, then another trip to Canton could be in store in the near future.

“I’ve been blessed with a good coaching staff, they do a great job. These kids put in a lot of work, it’s important to them. When football is important to you or anything is important to you, you’re willing to sacrifice and put in that hard work. The bigger thing is I hope they take those lessons and that approach of focusing on their daily work, focusing on the system we have instead of those goals,” Jones said. “The goals they come, sometimes there’s goals that are maybe out of your reach or not of your fault if you don’t get them. I wanted to be in the NBA but didn’t happen for me, wasn’t my fault.”

Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]

Osborne: just play hard as he can each down and coach asks for,

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