By GARY R. RASBERRY
An early battle for a share of first place in the Midwest Athletic
Conference highlights a night of rivalry games on Friday’s
The battle for a share of the MAC lead takes place in Delphos
as unbeatens Versailles and St. John’s battle at Stadium
Park. In other big games: St. Henry heads north on Ohio 118
to face Coldwater in the annual Backyard Battle, Minster heads
west on Ohio 119 to face Marion Local in their annual grudge
match and Parkway heads to New Bremen in a battle of teams that
suffered big losses last week.
Fort Recovery has the league bye week and celebrates homecoming
with LCC at Barrenbrugge Park.
In just the short time the teams have faced off as conference
foes, Versailles and St. John’s have become a very strong
In the first two conference meetings, the visitor has left the
unfriendly confines a winner, with the Blue Jays ending the
Tigers’ 4-0 start to the season with a 23-15 win last
season, a year after the Tigers ended St. John’s 32-game
conference win streak and 45-game regular season streak with
a 34-28 win at Delphos.
The Tigers come back to Stadium Park with a lot riding on the
game for both teams. Both are 4-0 overall and both unbeaten
in the MAC — the Jays have one more MAC win than Versailles.
With the other MAC unbeaten, Coldwater, waiting in the wings
for both teams later in the season, a win would be huge but
a loss doesn’t mean the hope for a title ends.
“This is a big game with two schools with a lot of history
and success,” said St. John’s coach Todd Schulte.
“We knew when Versailles came into the MAC we would have
a good opponent. There’s no bye week in the MAC but this
week’s game is big to stay in the drivers’ seat
in the conference. The other thing is that whoever wins the
game is going to get some big computer points.”
Veteran Versailles coach Al Hetrick concurs.
“This is two programs with a lot of pride,” said
Hetrick. “In the two years we’ve played (in the
MAC) both teams have hard fought clean football and there have
been some good games.”
The Tigers come into the game with one of the most balanced
offenses in the conference. Leading the way for the MAC are
the triple threat of seniors Kyle Gehle, Ben Shappie and Ryan
Quarterback Gehle has been efficient this season, completing
16-of-35 passes for 317 yards but has not thrown an interception
while tossing six touchdown passes, amassing a TDS Quarterback
Rating of 178.36.
The running back tandem of Shappie and McNeilan have been dangerous
on the run as well as the pass. McNeilan leads the team in rushing
with 259 yards with four rushing touchdowns and has added two
receiving touchdowns on just four total receptions. Shappie
leads the team in receiving with seven catches for 165 yards
and three scores and rushed for 229 yards and two scores.
One thing that Hetrick worried about coming into the season
was finding compliments to his three threats. Eric Strasbaugh
has been a big help, scoring three times and rushing for 222
yards this season. Offensive end Bart Schmitz has been able
to make timely receptions, making two big catches for 48 yards
and a touchdown.
“They have some great players returning this season with
Strasbaugh at fullback and Shappie and McNeilan at the halfbacks,”
said Schulte. “Gehle is a great quarterback who can run
or pass whenever his team needs it.”
“Bart has been a good blocker and has improved his receiving
this season. Our sophomore on the other side, Stephen Murphy
(two catches for 29 yards, one conversion) has also been playing
well,” said Hetrick. “Eric has been having a good
season at fullback and a couple of our other runners, Matt Murphy
(9 carries for 104 yards, 3 TD) and Curtis Wourms (8 carries
for 84 yards, 1 TD) have stepped up.”
As strong as the offense is, the defense has been stingy, limiting
teams to just 12.5 points per game while the offense averaged
49.5 per game.
One thing that Schulte might need to be concerned about is the
Tigers’ rush defense, which has giving up just 420 yards
The Blue Jays are coming off an escape win over Minster 20-14.
St. John’s was shut down on the run in the second half,
tallying 35 yards and forcing Blue Jay quarterback Jesse Kill
to go to the air. Kill completed all four of his passes for
124 yards, 70 coming on the game-winning pass to tight end Bart
Bergfeld with six minutes left in the game.
Schulte knows the passing game will be a need against the Tigers’
“We need to be more balanced,” said Schulte. “We’re
a running team and we will not get away from that, but we will
need to work on the passing game more this week since Versailles
has a great defense, especially against the rush.”
“We’ve been fortunate to swarm to the ball on defense,”
said Hetrick. “We had trouble harnessing Matt Shumaker
(129 yards against Minster, two scores) last season and will
need to find a way this season. They also have a good quarterback
in Kill and a good tight end who can catch the ball.”