First year head coach Jason Schondelmyer came to Versailles last season with huge shoes to fill, taking over for a retired coaching legend in six-time state champion Al Hetrick. The Tigers finished 5-5 in Schondelmyer’s first season but the Tigers are expecting to be improved this year across the board.
FB Ethan Oliver (6-1, 200, Sr.), RB Shawn Winter (5-10, 175, Sr.), OL Chris Elsas (6-0, 215, Sr.), OT Zac Rindler (5-10, 175, Sr.), TE/OL Bryant Ahrens (6-4, 215, Sr.)
2006 Record: 5-5
Adjustment and transition were the words of the moment for Versailles football program last season. The six-time state champion Tigers underwent their first season with new head coach Jason Schondelmyer after the retirement of coaching legend Al Hetrick. The team stumbled a bit, finishing just 5-5 on the season.
“Obviously our results are not what we hoped for,” Schondelmyer said.
But while any season that involves moving away from a fixture like Hetrick would likely bring some growing pains, Schondelmyer felt some positive steps were taken.
“The big thing in a transition year is learning kids, learning the community and becoming more comfortable with that, learning new coaches, teaching coaches as well as players,” he said. “I think we took a real big step in the right direction in regards to that, and now having a year with the kids in the offseason and getting to know them a little bit better, that can only help. All in all, for considering the situation and getting in there with a late start, the guys learning a new offense and defense, I thought they did a decent job and we just plan on building on that.”
In addition to the coaching change, the Tigers suffered a bit from lack of experience, among other things.
“The year before we graduated a really large senior class, and a lot of guys just hadn’t had a lot of game time situations,” Schondelmyer said. “Our speed was not where it needs to be. Those were a couple things that we didn’t really count on, and we got hit with some injuries that hurt us too. But that’s all part of the game. You just have to deal with it and you have to work out of it.”
The Tigers might have a few more victories in the win column this year, however. 14 starters are back and there are several areas where the team is ahead of last year’s squad.
“We have a lot of kids coming back,” Schondelmyer said. “We played a lot of younger guys last year and we have a lot of them coming back. Our fullback’s back, both our halfbacks are back, which makes it nice. The only job that is wide open for us is our quarterback position but we have two really talented juniors in John Richards and John Murphy. We return three guys on the offensive line, so we’re returning about seven on offense and around seven on defense, which is quite a jump for us from the year before. Once again, it’s just a matter of the guys being able to play faster because they feel more comfortable in the offensive and defensive schemes.
“From a strength standpoint, it is exactly that – strength. Since coming up here, we got the guys into a nice strength program where we’re trying to build power. We weren’t near as strong as we needed to be last year from the standpoint of being able to handle some of those bigger guys. If we’re undersized, strength makes up for a lot of it. So I think strength and just overall experience. When you teach a kid a new offensive and defensive scheme, you have to try to eliminate as much of that thinking as possible and just get the kid to play and react. I think that year of experience and that year of being together and learning each other is probably our biggest strength.”
Getting back to the playoffs will not be easy for Versailles – it never is in the Midwest Athletic Conference. Schondelmyer gave his impressions on the league after his first year at Versailles.
“The thing you notice in the conference is the depth,” he said. “When you’re talking about senior classes of 20-plus kids, you’re not used to seeing that. That can only help; that’s a lot experience and a lot of size, whereas in the Cross County Conference or really any other – the SWBL, where I was before that – a lot of times you’re forced to throw in some sophomores and juniors. In the MAC, that doesn’t bode well for you always. I’m sure you’re going to have some of those rare experiences where you have extremely talented kids, but for the most part, it’s experience and senior classes. I think that was one of the things that stood out, and just the overall size of the kids. There’s quite a bit of size in our conference.”
For the season opener, the Tigers face Dayton Oakwood for the fifth straight year.
“We’ve got Oakwood as a non-conference team,” Schondelmyer said. “Oakwood had a nice season last year and they return a lot of guys. They had a lot of juniors on their team. It’s a big challenge for us obviously week in and week out. But we just take it one game at a time and go from there. We’ll start with Oakwood and then we’ll go on from there.”
The Tigers will prepare for their season with two tough scrimmages.
“We’ve got two nice scrimmages,” Schondelmyer said. “We’re scrimmaging Alder in our second scrimmage which is good. I’m looking forward to that; my head coach is the head coach at Alder. We’ve got Covington also.”
Schondelmyer on his key players:
On fullback Ethan Oliver: “We call him The Diesel. He’s just a bruiser. He’s a tank; he really is. I think with another year – I get goosebumps talking about him now – I think he’s going to have a really, really good year. He’s just a stud.”
On running back Shawn Winter: “More of a finesse runner, more of a speed/gamebreaker type. He can take a short gain into a touchdown. So we look for good things out of him.”
On offensive lineman Chris Elsas: “He’s rock solid, just strong. He’s really getting after it in the weight room. He’s a great leader. He’s a guy that plays through bumps and bruises; that’s what I really like about him. He’s been knicked up but the guy is going to play, no matter what.”
On offensive tackle Zac Rindler: “He’s like a gnat. That’s how we describe him. He’s undersized, but quick and he will just drive you nuts because he’ll stay on his block and be a gnat all game long.”
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