By GARY R. RASBERRY
VERSAILLES — The battle of top teams lived up to the hype.
A packed-in crowd around H.B. Hole Field saw the top two teams
in not only Division IV but also the Midwest Athletic Conference
go toe-to-toe for 48 minutes.
Coldwater took the early lead but saw Versailles recover from
a rocky first half start to score twice within four minutes
in the third quarter winning the Battle of Orange, 12-10.
The win puts the Tigers alone on top of the MAC with a 6-0 record,
improves the team to 8-0 overall and will more than likely place
them on the top spot in the Associated Press football poll next
week. Coldwater, the team that held the top spot, drops to 7-1
“The kids were resilient,” said veteran Versailles
coach Al Hetrick. “They came out and played a lot better
in the second half. They made the plays when they needed to.”
Trailing 10-0 at the half, Versailles had to kickoff to the
Cavaliers to start the third quarter. The kickoff went to Ross
Homan, who had two returns for touchdowns this season. Homan
broke through some tackles and headed for a third return touchdown
but Alan Phlipot made the safety stop at the 31-yard line to
prevent a touchdown.
The play was huge as Coldwater lost the ball three plays later
on a fumble, allowing some breathing room for the Tigers.
After a trading of punts, Versailles made its charge. Kyle Gehle
took a second-and-nine snap at the 50-yard line and ran the
draw. Gehle broke a pair of tackles and sprinted toward the
end zone to get the Tigers on the board. The extra kick was
well short, putting the Tigers down 10-6 with 7:07 left in the
Coldwater tried to counter quickly as quarterback Alex Hoyng
moved the team down to the Tiger 33. On second-and-four, Hoyng
looked for Craig Wellman but found Versailles’ Ben Shappie
instead for the first of three second-half interceptions from
the Cavalier senior.
Versailles went full house in the backfield to get some additional
yardage on the ground before coming up with a third-and-six
from the Tiger 35. Gehle showed the handoff to Shappie and rolled
out to find Ryan McNeilan for the pass. McNeilan shook off his
defender and scored on the 65-yard pass play with 3:25 remaining
in the third. Versailles tried to go for two but Coldwater kept
its hopes alive by tackling Gehle as he tried to run in.
“We got two big plays in on him with the run and pass
for touchdowns,” said Hetrick. “We played tough
defense for the whole game, really. We just told them at halftime
that (Coldwater) was running patterns quicker than we are, running
harder than we are, hitting harder than we are and look where
we’re at. Let’s go out and show them we can do that.
“The kids went out in the second half and turned the tables.
... We told the seniors that it was their game.”
Coldwater continued to try and get back on top of the score
but the Versailles defense began to pick up intensity. Shappie
added another interception later and Phlipot picked off one
of his own. Coldwater’s defense, after the four-minute
hiccup in the third, bore down on the Tigers and tried to get
the ball back but the Tigers exclusively ran the ball the rest
of the game. Gehle was sacked five of his eight times after
his touchdown run as the Tigers could not get another score
to ice the game.
“Tim (Coldwater defensive coordinator Tim Hoyng) said
all week ‘I’ve got to find a way to keep them to
three scores,’” said Coldwater coach John Reed.
“Because if we could hold them to two (scores), we could
get three. Obviously we weren’t able to do that.”
What the Tiger defense could not do, Bart Schmitz did. The senior
punter punted five times and averaged a staggering 48.4 yards
per kick, getting punts of 55 and 60 along the way.
Schmitz’s last put allowed Coldwater to start from the
20 with 56 seconds left to try and stage a final score. Hoyng
went deep into the bag of tricks on the opening play with a
10-yard pass to Kevin Brackman, who pitched the ball to Josh
Fullenkamp for five more yards for a total of a 15-yard gain.
A spiked ball was followed up by an attempted tip play when
Hoyng looked for Wellman, who tried to tip the ball to Jay Miller,
but Shappie got in the middle of the play to knock the ball
down. On third down, Hoyng found Trent Gerlach for a four-yard
catch on the sidelines to set up fourth-and-six.
Hoyng looked for Wellman for the first down but the ball was
short, allowing Versailles to take over and take the knee to
end the game.
“Tremendous credit goes to Versailles for making those
two big plays,” said Reed. “Our kids continued to
battle the whole time. We weren’t able to make the play
we needed to make in the second half. You have to give Versailles
credit for that.”
Hoyng finished with a 17-of-32 night passing for 148 yards with
three interceptions, all coming in the second half.
Shappie came up with 59 yards rushing as the four ball carriers
for the Tigers — Shappie, McNeilan, Gehle and Eric Strausbaugh
— combined for 164 yards.
Versailles travels to St. Henry on Friday as Coldwater hosts
its final regular season home game with Fort Recovery.