Compiled by Gary R. Rasberry
With the second half of the football season underway, thoughts turn to league titles and playoff hopes.
Two teams in need of a big win on Friday to keep postseason aspirations clearly in sight will play at Booster Stadium in Maria Stein as Versailles and Marion Local renew their 60-year-old rivalry.
The series dates back to 1946 when the Tigers beat the old St. John school (St. John evolved into Marion Local in 1955), 48-14. The series has mainly gone the Tigers' way by a 41-18-1 margin, but in the last several years, the Flyers have taken control of the series, winning five of the last seven. Versailles won at Hole Field last season, 28-10. Both teams are distant from Midwest Athletic Conference title hopes as both are 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the league on the season. The Flyers come in winners of two straight after losing big to Coldwater and St. Henry in weeks two and three. Last week, the annual grudge match on state Route 119 saw the Flyers limit Minster to a safety in a 27-2 win.
The Tigers come off one of the biggest spankings the team has had in years. Delphos St. John's handed Versailles a 52-6 loss, the biggest margin of loss since 1962 when Greenville won a Darke County battle, 48-0. The last time the Tigers gave up 50 or more points in a game was way back in 1926, when Bradford beat the Tigers 59-0, the year the Railroaders went 9-0 and outscored teams 276-0.
The game features a pair of athletic quarterbacks and solid skill players buoyed by strong offensive lines.
Versailles brings in three-year starter Tony McNeilan to run the offense and McNeilan has used his legs more than his arms this season. The 6-3 senior has run for more yards (416, good for seventh in the area) than passed for this season (284). Also in the backfield for the Tigers is Ethan Oliver (320 yards, four touchdowns).
Marion boasts junior Chris Stucke at quarterback, who has rushed for 176 yards and three scores this season to go with 467 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Senior tailback Marc Otte has been a workhorse this season, not only leading the team in rushing with 465 yards and four touchdowns, but also adding 96 receiving yards while scoring on defense as well.
Defensively, the Flyers have improved after allowing 58 points combined against Coldwater and St. Henry. The last two weeks the Flyer defense has allowed just eight points. Linebackers Greg Koesters (58 tackles) and Luke Homan (52 tackles, three sacks) have been the stalwarts for the Flyers on defense this season.
The last three weeks have been a challenge for the Versailles defense as the Tigers have allowed 42.3 points per game in going 1-2 -- the lone win being a 40-27 slugfest against Fort Recovery. The Tigers' season defensive average is 29.4 points, compared to a 20.8 offensive average.
The Flyers avearge 27 points a game on the season and have held teams to just 14.4 points per game.
Defensive end Brian Schwieterman has shown the ability to get through offensive lines, recording three sacks on the season. Linebacker Drew Platfoot leads the team in tackles with 39. In the secondary, Shawn Winner is among the area's top defenders with three interceptions.