The Versailles Football Team gets ready to celebrate their win over Harvest Prep to return to a State Championship. (Dale Barger Photo)

Versailles Uses Complete Team Effort To Beat Harvest Prep To Advance To State Championship Game.

LONDON – Versailles was tied 14-14 at the half with Canal Winchester Harvest Prep but came out strong in the 3rd frame and exerted their will scoring two touchdowns to take a 28-14 lead then held off a late Prep score by recovering an onside kick to secure a 28-22 win to advance to the State Championship.

It was a clash of styles with Versailles looking to grind it out up front keeping the ball on the ground most of the game while Harvest Prep tried to use their speed and the strong arm of their quarterback to make big plays.

The Tigers scored on their opening drive on a 3-yard run from Landon Henry to go up 7-0.

Harvest Prep made some big plays on their next drive scoring on a 27-yard pass from Aiden Rogers to Austin Reeves.  The Warriors couldn’t convert the two-point try and Versailles maintained a 7-6 lead with 9 seconds left in the 1st quarter.

The Tigers took just 3 plays to answer with Carson Bey running for 35 yards, then he connected with Eli McEldowney over the middle for 24 yards and then Bey capped the drive with another run this time a 24-yarder to put Versailles up 14-6.

Harvest Prep wasn’t shell-shocked at all and used their speed to get out on the edge slowly moving the ball on their next drive.  A couple of nice throws mixed in with the rush got the Warriors to the one-yard line where Jalen Jennings stretched his hand over the goal line for the score.  Rogers connected with Justin Batista for the two-point conversion tying the game at 14. 

Versailles had visions of scoring before intermission and lined up a 32-yard field goal … but the kick was blocked, and Harvest Prep tried to field the ball but while trying to scoop up the ball the runner’s knee hit the ground with the half ending 14-14.

Going into the half it looked like it was anyone’s game with Harvest Prep to receive the 2nd half kick-off.

“We didn’t end the 1st half well and left some plays out there, but you can’t hang your head, so we talked about using that as motivation and getting focused for the 2nd half,” Versailles football coach Ryan Jones said.

The Tigers sensed the importance of getting a stop to start the 3rd quarter as Harvest Prep showed they weren’t afraid to go for it on 4th down something they did in the first half on both of their scoring drives.

This time Versailles made them pay, on a 4th and 2 Aiden Rogers went for it but was corralled by  Jacob Carman, Trey Mills and Lucas Stammen giving the Tigers the ball on their own 44-yard line.

A couple of nice runs by Jack Osborne, then a 1-yard TD plunge from Carson Bey along with the extra point kick from Chase McEldowney quickly put the Versailles in front 21-14.

The Tigers weren’t finished coming up big again on defense this time it was Landon Henry jumping the route to intercept Roger’s pass returning it to the 28-yard line setting Versailles up with good field position.

But the Tigers still found themselves in a 4th down situation as Prep held strong … Bey connected with Noah McEldowney on 15-yard pass on an out pattern right at the sticks.  McEldowney dove to catch the ball while keeping his toes just inbounds at the 3-yard line.

“Noah had a great comeback getting his feet in-bounds and Carson put it right on him, but he can’t do that if the line doesn’t hold off the defense.  That’s why it’s a total team effort, it’s not just the guy throwing or the guy catching, it’s all those guys,” Jones commented.

Two plays later Landon Henry on a second and third effort, broke the plane of the goal line and just like that the Tigers led 28-14 at 4:44 in the third quarter.

The Tigers remained stingy on defense with a bend don’t break mentality and forced a punt where Versailles took over at their own 3-yard line with 10 minutes to play in the game. 

Versailles was able to move the ball and chew up some clock that included a 36-yard run from Bey.  But the Tigers eventually punted with the Warriors taking over on the 15-yard line with 4:48 left to play in the game.

Harvest Prep went to work and put together an 85-yard drive that included a 41-yard pass from Rogers to Batista.  The duo connected two more times before Marchello Cox ran it in from 5-yards out for the touchdown.

The Warriors then went for a two-point conversion with pressure being applied by Bey on Rogers, he was able to toss a soft pass just over the top of the line to Shawn Ruffin to close the gap 28-22 with 1:34 seconds left the game.

Prep would try an onside kick, but it was nicely secured by Versailles and all the Tigers needed is to gain at least one first down to run out the clock.   On 3rd down Bey scampered 11 yards to keep possession and the Tigers ran out the clock sending them to Canton for a shot at a State Championship.

For the game Carson Bey rushed for 181 yards on 22 carries, he also threw for 80-yards on 6-9 passing.  Two passes were big 4th down conversions; one to Eli McEldowney who had 2 catches for 34 yards, the other to Noah McEldowney who had 3 receptions for 32 yards.  

The Tigers had 351 total yards of offense to 252 for Harvest Prep.  Prep was led quarterback Aiden Rogers on 185 yards passing and Justin Batista with 83 yards rushing.

The Warriors finished the season with a 10-3 record while Versailles improved to 14-1.

After the game coach Jones touched on the game and the toughness of his team to pull out the victory.

“It was a fantastic win over a good team that was well coached.  They were physical, tough and executed well, they were everything we expected them to be.  Hats off to them, they played a great game,” Jones said.

“This was a whole team victory.  Everyone has a role from our scout team to the younger guys whose roles are important Monday – Friday.  It’s a team effort, our coaching staff does great; Darrell Jones, Craig Prenger, Zach Sudhoff, Stephen Winner, Bob Stammen, Adam Miller they all do a great job and it’s great to be able to experience this with all of them,” Jones praised.

“It feels great getting to a state final, but it’s even better to experience this with the kids, I wouldn’t want to do it any other way, it’s great for the community and our school to be back in a state championship, it’s going to be a heck of a week,” Jones said.

Versailles will take on Kirtland in the State Final game on Saturday at 7:30pm at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

“I know Kirtland has a great football team and a great program and it’s going to be an unbelievable challenge for us,” Jones concluded.

Kirtland is currently riding a 55 consecutive game win streak the 2nd most in OHSAA History and one more game than the streak Versailles had in the 90’s.  Kirtland is headed to its tenth state title game in 11 years.

Given all that Versailles will be ready to take on that challenge with 18 seniors and football team and community that has waited to be back in state championship since 2004.

TEAM SCORING:

VERSAILLES: 7-7-14-0–28 

HARVEST PREP: 0-14-0-8–22 

VER – Henry 3 run (McEldowney kick) 

HP – Reeves 27 reception from Rogers (2-point conversion failed) 

VER – Bey 24 run (McEldowney kick) 

HP – Jennings 1 run (Batista reception from Rogers) 

VER – Bey 1 run (McEldowney kick) 

VER – Henry 3 run (McEldowney kick) 

HP – Cox 5 run (Ruffin pass from Jennings)

Carson Bey rushed for 181 yards and had 2 touchdowns in win over Harvest Prep. (Dale Barger Photo)
Landon Henry splits the defenders of Harvest Prep for a touchdown. He had 2 in the game and also big interception to set-up a score. (Dale Barger Photo)
The Versailles Cheerleaders and Student Section doing their part to get the Tigers fired up in their state semifinal win over Harvest Prep. (Dale Barger Photo)
Eli McEldowney came up with a couple of big catches in the game to help Versailles knock off Harvest Prep. (Dale Barger Photo)
When the Tigers need a big 4th down stop in the 3rd quarter it was the trio of Jacob Carman, Trey Mills and Lucas Stammen with a big tackle of a loss to set-up the go ahead touchdown. (Dale Barger Photo)

Dale Barger / Sports Editor

Dale Barger is a lifelong sports enthusiast and has covered high school athletics for nearly 20 years in Southwest Ohio and now becomes sports editor for Darke County now. For 18 years Dale has been a sportswriter for The Daily Advocate and has been published in online sorts magazines and conference websites. Dale is also an accomplished photographer who has captured thousands of athletes in action over the years. Dale is a member of The Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association and was a 2019 recipient of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Southwest District Media Service Award. Dale lives on a 72-acre farm outside of New Madison, Ohio and is married to Rita Ann (Fourman) Barger and together they have two sons and three grandkids. If you don’t see Dale at a sporting event you might catch him following his other passion – photographing nature and wildlife. Contact Darke County Now Editor Media Sports Editor Dale Barger at dbarger@darkecountynow.com.

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