VersaillesatMinsterBarring some sort of monumental meltdown, the Marion Local Flyers will certainly claim the 2013 Midwest Athletic Conference title following their decisive victory last week over Coldwater.  Despite that, there is still plenty of incentive for local teams to shoot at in these final two weeks; whether it is as lofty as a playoff berth or as subtle as simply playing for pride.  For the Minster Wildcats and Versailles Tigers, it is a matter of both.  At 5-3 overall and 5-1 in the conference, the Wildcats are searching for their fourth straight post-season appearance and looking to finish with their best conference slate in two decades.  On the other end of the field, the Tigers are out of the playoff hunt, but victories in their final two games will salvage some hope in what has been a disappointing season record-wise.  Last week, the Tigers suffered a heart-breaking, overtime to Delphos St. John’s.  “We really try to focus on the task at hand which this week is beating Minster,” explained Tiger head coach Adam Miller. “They only thing we really have control of right now beating them.  We can’t work backward or forward – it is difficult not to look at the big picture and realize that we know we only have two games left.  At this point it comes down to playing for pride.”

Since losing to Coldwater three weeks ago, the Wildcats have rattled off two straight wins, including their victory last week at Barrnbrugge Park with a 35-13 dismantling of the Fort Recovery Indians.  The win launched them into the 9th slot of the region 22 computer rankings, but experts believe they need to win their final two games to assure themselves of a post-season berth.  Against the Indians, Eli and Ethan Wolf continue to devastate opponent as they combined for 11 receptions, 153 yards, and two touchdowns.  Sophomore quarterback Josh Nixon toss for 250 yards and three touchdowns, while defensively Jared Thobe and Wes Hegemann combined for 12 tackles, two of which were for losses.  “We’ve been pretty balanced throughout the year – the Wolf brothers have consistently made plays for us, plus a ton of other guys have stepped up at various times when we needed them to,” Minster head coach Geron Stokes commented.  “We like our quarterback and we like our skill kids on both sides competing their tails off, but we have to be more physical upfront on both sides of the ball to get to the level we want to be.”

Last week was one that the Versailles Tigers would soon like to get out of their memories.  Leading by as many as 14 points late in the game, the Tigers slipped up in the closing minutes and dropped a dramatic overtime decision 27-26 to the Blue Jays.  Despite the defeat, several Tigers have continued to play exceptional to this point in the campaign.  “Damien Richard has been a great wide receiver for us offensively,” Miller pointed out.  “He is our go-to guy with nine touchdowns so far this season. Defensively, Kyle Dieringer has been our most valuable player – he is the leader of the defense with 76 tackles on the year along with an interception.”

Both coaches understand this week’s meeting will hold extra incentive for their opponent and their respective teams will need to be on top of their game.  “Versailles is tough,” Stokes praised.  “They have a bunch of quality football players that play the game the right way.  It doesn’t matter whether they won or lost last week because we know their kids are going to fight.  We’re expecting a tough, physical, grind-it-out war where we have to earn everything we get.  It’ll be good for us, as we will have to match their effort and physicality.”

Miller agreed and concluded, “I think we are eager to get back out there – despite the outcome, I’m very proud of our effort against St. John’s. Minster is another big game where we have to be prepared.  We played great defensively against St. John’s, but I think the Wolf brothers will test us.  We also played well offensively, but the biggest area of improvement we have right now is special teams.  We need to improve in many spots overall – Minster will be ready for us and it should be a great game.”

By Robb Hemmelgarn