VERSAILLES – Automobile horns blared. Black and orange jacketed Versailles students hung from car windows with their index fingers displayed proudly in the air and telling anyone who would listen, “We’re No. 1”.
Versailles football fans had reason to cheer after its rubber band defense stretched and then snapped an eight-game Covington winning streak with a 13-3 win in front of a Homecoming crowd at Hole Field.
With the win, Versailles increased its record to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Southwestern Rivers Conference. The Tigers can clinch a share of the league title with Covington with a win over Springfield Catholic Central next Friday. Covington’s record falls to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the league. The Buccs need a win over Lehman Friday to clinch a share of the title.
While clinging to a 7-3 lead, Versailles turned back a late Covington drive with 5:13 to play. Fullback Ty Owens burst 8 yards on first down to advance the ball to the Versailles 16-yard line. However, two Owens plunges netted minus two yards to bring up fourth-and-four. Jim Stickley failed to pull in a Matt Pond option pitch as Versailles swarming defense recovered the loose ball.
Less than three minutes later, tailback Matt Grisez exploded through the Covington secondary on a 26-Blast play, a sweep around the right end that covered 66 yards for the score. Grisez finished the game with 105 yards rushing on 12 carries.
“The kids just did it,” said Versailles coach Al Hetrick, smiling. “It wasn’t one but all 52 players contributed in the win. We took advantage of the opportunities. We gave them a big one at the beginning with the fumble, but we held them to three points. And then late in the fourth quarter we held them on three straight plays. That was the key to the game.”
A frustrated Charlie Burgbacher, Covington coach, struggled to find the words about his team’s play.
“It was just things that happened,” said Burgbacher. “Someone got their hand up on the line and tipped the ball and they intercepted it. It’s something that happened. They did a good job defensively against the run. We didn’t convert like we had in past games. We just didn’t convert tonight.”
After Versailles turned the ball over on the first play from scrimmage, Covington wasted little time in taking the early lead. Five rushing plays by Owens and three by Stickley brought out place kicker Bill Besecker, who booted a 33-yard field goal with 7:21 left in the first quarter.
After a change of possession later in the quarter, Versailles’ David Pohl lifted a 38-yard punt, which died at the Covington 2-yard line. The Buccs failed to pick up a first down in its next possession, gaining five yards in three plays. After a Pond punt from his own end zone, the Tigers took over at their own 38.
Versailles needed just 3:02 to take a 7-3 lead. After a pass interference penalty netted the Tigers one first down, quarterback Kevin Berger hooked up with Grisez on an 11-yard pass on fourth-and-five. Berger found Jeff Marshall two plays later with a bullet in the corner of the end zone on a 6-yard scoring strike. Matt Heffner kicked the extra point to give the Tigers all the points they would need on the night.
“We thought we could beat them with quick passes,” Hetrick said. “We worked on the X-in pass all week. On the touchdown, Marshall was a secondary receiver.”
After a scoreless second quarter, Covington dominated play in the third and fourth quarters, but had nothing to show for it. Covington ran 37 offensive plays compared to Versailles’ 19. The Buccs turned the ball over on downs twice, a punt, a fumble and a Bob Ahrens interception of Pond, which was deflected by Dave Bruns.
“They are a doggone good team,” Hetrick said about Covington. “To be honest with you, I didn’t think we could hold them to three points. I wanted to hold them to a touchdown or two. I was hoping we could get our offense untracked.”
Burgbacher felt Versailles’ defense played a good game.
“I don’t think we were able as a team to get outside,” Burgbacher said. “You have to give credit to their defense and their coaching staff. They did a nice job on us. We knew Versailles was going to be tough. They played a little better than we did”.
Stickley led Covington’s rushing attack with 75 yards. Rich Phillis chipped in 69 yards. Pond completed four of 11 passes for 41 yards, but three three interceptions.
Berger completed four of 14 passes for 41 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception.
Covington still has a chance to lock up at least a share of the SRC title with a win next Friday as they host Lehman in the season finale.
COV: Bill Besecker 33-yd filed goal
VER: Jeff Marshall 6-yd pass from Kevin Berger (Matt Heffner Kick)
VER: Matt Grisez 6-yd run (Kick Failed)
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Covington: 3 0 0 0 = 3
Versailles: 7 0 0 6 = 13