SIDNEY — Versailles senior quarterback Michael Osborne didn’t play two weeks ago. While he returned last week, he showed Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium he is at full strength again.
Osborne usually wasn’t the one to punch it in, but he set up every Versailles touchdown, ran for one himself and had a game-changing interception in the second quarter to jump-start a 41-14 victory over Anna in a regional final.
The Rockets, which lost 41-14 to Versailles in a Midwest Athletic Conference game on Sept. 29, finish 8-6 overall. The squad dropped to 3-5 after a lopsided loss to Marion Local in Week 8 but then won five consecutive games before Friday’s loss, including three playoff victories.
“The kids played hard. Really liked this group of kids,” Anna coach Nick Marino said. “We had no problems all year. It makes coaching football fun when you don’t have any issues. The kids did what we asked them to do.
“We got beat up early in the year, dropped some games. But we battled back and I thought they played well. They’re the second team in school history to get to a regional championship game, so they’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
Anna will lose 10 players to graduation, including Trey Heitkamp, who was a second team all-MAC and all-Southwest district selection.
“We’re losing a lot of starters, losing on the line moreso, so that’s what we’re looking at, getting (new linemen) better,” Marino said. “… But we’ve got some kids back that we can definitely build off next year.”
Versailles (12-2) advances to a state semifinal for the second time in three years. The Tigers, which won the D-V state title in 2021, will face Columbus Grove in a Div. VI semifinal next Friday at Wapakoneta’s Mercy Health/Wapak Ford Stadium.
“It’s an awesome accomplishment for these boys,” Versailles fifth-year coach Ryan Jones said.
Versailles and Anna each drove inside the 10 but turned it over on downs on the first two possessions of the game. The Tigers scored to take a 7-0 lead, then Osborne intercepted a pass from Anna senior quarterback Alex Shappie and returned it about 65 yards to the 2-yard line.
He ran in from 2 yards out with 2:09 left in the second quarter to give Versailles a 14-0 lead.
Osborne didn’t play due to a minor leg injury two weeks ago.
“He’s one of the best athletes in Division VI,” Marino said. “He looked back to full steam tonight. That was the difference in the ball game; we couldn’t tackle him. He was faster than anybody we had. There’s a reason he was the MAC player of the year. He’s a really, really good football player.”
Versailles led 21-0 at halftime. The Rockets drove and scored on the opening possession of the third quarter on a 4-yard TD pass from Shappie to Heitkamp, which cut the gap to 15 points after a missed extra point.
Versailles quickly responded. After several runs by Osborne, Joel Gehret ran in from 4 yards out with 4:34 left to boost the lead to 28-6.
After converting a fourth-and-six near midfield, Shappie threw a 13-yard TD pass to Noah Aufderhaar after initially handing off to Zach Osborn, who tossed it back. Shappie completed a pass on a two-point conversion try to bring Anna within 28-14 with 1:47 left.
But Versailles again quickly drove and scored on a 21-yard TD run by Gehret with 10:44 left in the fourth to take a 35-14 lead.
“We knew Anna was really good, and we knew there was going to be some ups and downs in this game,” Jones said. “We talked about keeping our focus, our poise under pressure, not getting too high or too low, playing one play at a time. I think they did that pretty well tonight.”
Anna turned it over on downs at its own 34. After a big run by Osborne on a fourth down, Gehret ran in from 6 yards out with 3:39 left. Gehret missed his first extra point of the night, which kept the score the same as the teams’ regular-season matchup.
The Tigers were facing a fourth-and-eight from near the 25. Osborne dropped back to pass, then took off up the middle, weaving through defenders before being tripped up near the goal line. (A false start penalty on the next play moved it back to the 6.)
“It’s a dream as a coach to have a guy like that who can bail you out. It makes it so you don’t have to call the perfect play every time,” Jones said of Osborne. “He’s a weapon that is hard for defenses to account for. He can throw it, and they know that we have some receivers who can catch the ball, so you have to cover him, or he’s going to hit them.
“If he gets a seam, he’s going to hit it. He can make plays with his feet. He did a great job tonight running the ball. Then he has an interception. He’s a heck of a playmaker, very special football player.”
Versailles intercepted a pass on Anna’s final drive and ran out the clock.
“It felt like as we got the game going, we were able to establish more of a run game,” Jones said. “Joel Gehret did a tremendous job. He ran harder and harder as the game wore on. He can be a punishing running back. He did a great job all night.
“That doesn’t happen if the offensive line isn’t opening up, if the fullback is not making great blocks. It takes a team effort. We talk about that all the time. If we’re going to win this game, we’re going to win it because we’re a team with 11 guys trusting each other.”
Versailles methodically drove down the field on the first possession of the game but turned it over on downs once it got inside the 10. The Rockets then did the same after they turned it over at Versailles’ 2 with just over nine minutes left in the second quarter.
The Tigers drove quickly on a series of runs by Osborne and scored when Ross Francis ran in from 1 yard out with 5:08 left in the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
Osborne then intercepted a pass from Shappie in the middle of the field near Versailles’ 35, raced through defenders toward the home sideline and ran to the 2 before he was forced out of bounds.
Osborne ran in on the next play to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
Versailles forced Anna to punt and quickly drove and scored when Osborne threw a 20-yard TD pass to Lane Bergman with 0.8 seconds left to take a 21-0 lead at halftime.
“The kids played hard. They gave a great effort,” Anna coach Nick Marino said. “I would have liked to have scored on that first drive. That may have swung the game a bit differently.
“We just couldn’t tackle the Osborne kid tonight. That was the difference in the game.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.