The Delphos St John’s Blue Jays and the Versailles Tigers took turns running the ball down the field at Hole Field. A lonely extra point, the only successful try out of 6 on the night, proved to be the difference and sent the Blue Jays to 3-1.
Versailles – To say that Versailles and Delphos St John’s have rich football histories is like saying Sonny Fulks likes baseball (he LOVES baseball).
Each team has won 6 state titles, and the two teams possess the longest winning streaks in Ohio high school history. Versailles won 54 straight before losing to Marion Pleasant in the 1996 state championship game, and Delphos won 57 straight from 1997 to 2001. The team that ended the Blue Jay’s streak—yep, Versailles.
Friday night, at H.B. Hole Field, they renewed their rivalry on the field for the 22nd time, and the game was as close as the series. A Matthew Miller extra point after the Blue Jays first touchdown proved to be the difference in a 19-18 win, a decision that evened the series, which dates back to 1957, at 11 victories each.
“That was two old-school, smash-mouth programs tonight,” smiled long-time Delphos coach Todd Schulte. “They did a great job establishing their run game, we did a good job with ours. We didn’t have many possessions, but took advantage of the chances we got. It was a pretty good MAC game for people to watch.”
“It was a hard-fought battle out there,” said Versailles head coach Adam Miller after his team fell to 2-2, 1-1 in the MAC. “The kids played hard. We saw great effort all night, but we came up one play short.”
The game was as close statistically as it was on the scoreboard. Versailles ran 47 plays for 251 yards, while the Blue Jays had 44 offensive snaps for 248 yards. It was an old-school night of football, as the teams combined for just 76 yards through the air.
Versailles scored on each of its first two possessions. An 11 play, 63-yard drive ended on a 4 yard scoring run on fourth and goal by Garrett Thompson, who finished the night with 93 yards on 16 carries, and a 4 play, 58 yard drive was finished off by Ryan Subler, who got to the corner on the Delphos defense and raced 30 yards down the home sideline to paydirt. However, and it’s a big however, the Tigers missed the PAT kick after their first score and went for two unsuccessfully after the second.
“Things were going really well for our offense early, but then they made some adjustments,” Miller explained. “That’s what football is, a game of adjustments.”
Schulte said his kids just needed to start playing football.
“A lot of it was just playing assignments. They hit us twice for touchdowns with the counter, and we were able to slow our backside guys down to wait on the counter and look for it. We had a couple of good tackles on the counter late in the game. But I give Versailles credit, They owned us up front for much of the game.”
Delphos got its offense in gear after the first Versailles score, going 74 yards in 8 plays, culminated by a 3 yard run by Aaron Reindel. A bruising 5-9, 195-pound senior, Reindel was a pain in the Tigers side all night, carrying 26 times for 172 yards and all three Blue Jays touchdowns. He now has 688 yards rushing in four games, and has scored 15 touchdowns.
Reindel acknowledged the importance of the win for his team.
“This is a big win for us,” he said while standing outside the locker room in Al Hetrick fieldhouse. “This is a very tough place to play, so to come here and get a win feels very good.”
The Blue Jays went 1-9 last season, and Reindel said none of his teammates liked the way that felt.
“We worked really hard in the off-season. 1-9 is probably the best motivator you can have on a high school football team, especially one that has guys who care a lot. Leadership was huge throughout the winter, carried on into the summer, and I would say these guys just want to win.”
Trailing 19-12 early in the fourth, the Tigers put together what should have been a game changing drive. Staying strictly on the ground, the Tigers rode the strong running of Thompson for a 68 yard drive in 13 plays, which took 7 minutes and 40 seconds off the clock.
Elation quickly turned to dejection, however, as what would have been a game tying extra point hooked wide to the left. Delphos recovered an on-side kick, and Reindel gained just enough yardage to let the Blue Jays run out the clock to improve to 3-1.
“That was a great drive,” reflected Miller. “I’m proud that the kids were able to put together that type of drive in those circumstances. That’s what we want to do, keep the ball and run the clock. We would like to have a lead when we have a drive like that, but the kids really executed.”
Schulte talked about the Blue Jays’ turnaround.
“Obviously, we’re a year older. Last year, we got beat up early. In our league, it’s hard to play a lot of young kids who aren’t ready for Friday nights. A lot of times it was boys against men, and you can’t overcome that. We had a great off-season. I think we are stronger, weight room-wise, than we’ve been in the last four or five years. Credit to our kids. They weren’t happy with 1-9 and went back to work. It shows out on the field.
“We talk a lot about our tradition and our history. We talk about the people who have played before us, who built this thing. We are in charge with taking care of that, and we have to work that hard both in-season and out. Good defense and enough offense to win games, that’s what Blue Jay football is about.”
The Tigers lost a running back for the third time in four games. Kurtis Rutschilling tore his ACL in the opening quarter of the season against Celina, George Grow went down with a foot or ankle injury last week against Anna, and Ryan Subler, who had 62 yards on 8 carries, hobbled off the field early in the third quarter and did not returned.
Still, there were Miller bright spots for the Tigers, who travel to Marion Local and host Fort Recovery the next two weeks..
“I told the kids, the good thing was they played heard, they gave great effort. Delphos is a very good team, and they just made one more play than we did. We have to get back to work on Monday and have to get better.”
Reindel said he and his teammates were not looking too far ahead.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked how far the Blue Jays could go. “I hope this is the start of something big. But we just have to keep working and take one game at a time. Whatever happens that week, happens.”
“We’re happy with where we are,” Schulte said as he headed for the locker room. “We’ll enjoy this win tomorrow and Sunday, but Monday we’re going back to work and get ready for Anna. In football, your joy in victories is short-lived, then you have to go back to work. But it’s a whole lot easier going back to work when you are 3-1”.