VERSAILLES — With a lot of positions up for grabs for the upcoming season, the Versailles football team got a look at some of its potential players on Thursday as the Tigers played host to Anna in a seven-on-seven passing scrimmage.
Thursday’s competition against Midwest Athletic Conference foe Anna was the second scrimmage of the season for Versailles. The Tigers rotated in several players throughout the evening on both offense and defense as they work to find who will earn playing time for Fridays this upcoming fall.
“It was definitely a learning experience for us,” Versailles football coach Adam Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of open positions out there so we’re trying a lot of different kids at different positions and just trying to see who can play where to get our best 11 on the field.”
The varsity and junior varsity squads each took one half of Hole Field and ran plays concurrently. Each offense started 40 yards out from the end zone and got about 10 plays on each series.
Anna started out the scrimmage on offense and struck early and often on its first drive. On the third play of the first series, the Rockets connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass to the running back out of the backfield.
After resetting back to the 40-yard line, it took three plays for Anna to score again with a touchdown pass down the sideline. One play later, the Rockets scored their third touchdown of the drive on a 40-yard pass up the middle of the Tiger defense.
Miller wasn’t very worried about the early defensive struggles.
“Coming into this we didn’t prepare at all,” he said. “It’s not like we knew exactly what to look for against Anna. Especially in this situation, it takes a little bit to get your feet underneath you.”
Versailles’ offense also started strong with quarterback Jared Niekamp connecting with Corey Dieringer on the Tigers’ fourth play for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Two plays later Niekamp found Mitchell Paulus for a 40-yard touchdown.
Niekamp, a junior, took most of the varsity reps at quarterback Thursday evening with Connor Custenborder taking some as well. Niekamp got most of the varsity time as his biggest competition for the starting position, senior Jace Barga, missed Thursday’s scrimmage because of a Legion baseball game.
“He’s definitely got the tools to be a quarterback,” Miller said of Niekamp. “It’s just putting it all together. He’s got a very strong arm. He’s definitely put in a lot of effort outside of what’s required to get the starting job. He’s really starting to establish himself as a quarterback.”
After both Anna and Versailles failed to score on their next offensive drives, Anna got its offense going again with its third possession.
On the second play of the series the Rockets connected for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Four plays later they had a 25-yard touchdown.
After advancing 25 yards on the next three plays, the Rockets repositioned the ball from the 15-yard line to the 5 to attempt a goal line play on the final play of the series. They converted from the 5-yard line and scored.
“Anna is a very, very good team,” Miller said. “They’re definitely a contender for the MAC title. They’ve got a lot of speed. I think our defense is pretty solid. It’s kind of the same thing; we’ve got a lot of open positions so we’re trying a lot of different people in positions just to get the best on the field.”
Versailles came up empty on its next offensive drive with an interception on the first play followed by a failure to score after that.
Anna’s ensuing drive saw the Rockets connect for a 40-yard touchdown pass on their first play, but after that the Tigers held them in check.
Versailles’ next drive included Niekamp and Dieringer connecting again on a 30-yard touchdown pass.
On Anna’s next possession, the Tigers held the Rockets scoreless, and David Stewart came up with an interception.
Versailles moved the ball on its next drive all the way to the goal line, but instead of trying to score, the Tigers reset the ball at the 40-yard line for their final two offensive plays.
On the final offensive possession of the night, Versailles again held Anna scoreless with Zach Steinbrunner grabbing an interception at the goal line.
Miller likes the competition that will result from having so many open positions, he said, but realizes there will be some growing pains as the Tigers try to fill them.
“Hopefully they’re short and quick and we get through them, but that’s kind of the thing; we just have to be patient and know that we’re working with some kids that lack experience, but as the season goes on we just hope to improve every week,” he said.