WARDSVILLE — On paper, it would appear the Blair Oaks Falcons are finally facing an easier opponent tonight in the Versailles Tigers.
But Versailles isn't your typical 0-3 team. And Coby Williams isn't your typical quarterback.
"When you coach a guy like that, you're running the system, but that guy is really good at improvising," Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. "He's a Johnny Manziel-type of quarterback. He can make things happen that you can't control.
"You watch him and you're just in awe. The guy is phenomenal."
The Falcons are tasked with trying to stop the all-state, dual-threat senior quarterback one last time tonight in Versailles. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Last season as a junior, Williams totaled more than 3,200 yards of offense — 1,783 yards passing, 1,474 yards rushing.
Through three games in 2019, Williams has already surpassed 1,000 yards — 663 yards passing, 361 yards rushing.
While his speed has enabled his ability to keep plays alive, Williams showed off his arm last Friday in a school-record fashion, completing 35-of-55 passes for 352 yards in a 61-41 loss to Class 3 No. 6 Southern Boone.
Williams had a hand in all six touchdowns, throwing for four and rushing for the other two. He finished with 104 yards on the ground in a game that was tied at 35 in the third quarter.
Dallas Waller, a senior, was on the receiving end of 22 of Williams' completions last week, totaling 219 yards with three scores.
"No. 7, you better know where he's at," LePage said of Waller. " Williams will run around, and he runs around so well. He was hit two times last week where the defender had him, and he would jump up in the air, he was off the ground in the defender's arms, and he still found a way to find (Waller)."LePage said Versailles has sent four receivers wide — and sometimes, even five — in its spread offense. He has emphasized to his cornerbacks and safeties they can't let down their guard against their receiver.
Williams has completed passes to eight different players this season.
"This week, we've had our coverage work for 10 seconds to stay in coverage," LePage said, "because if you come out of coverage, he'll find you."
Williams can also burn a defense if he's able to scramble.
"I told our players he can outrun anybody on our team," LePage said. "He can juke you, he can jump over you, and by golly, if you think you have him wrapped up, he'll find a way (to get free)."
LePage said Southern Boone was able to finally slow down Williams in the second half by winning the battle on first downs.
"They were able to get them behind the sticks and force him to stay in the pocket a little bit more," he said. "In the first half, they couldn't do that."
Versailles may be averaging 29 points per game, but the Tigers' defense has struggled to get stops of their own.
Through three games, Versailles is allowing 55.7 points per game. The Tigers gave up 50 points in the season opener to Knob Noster and allowed 56 points in Week 2 to Buffalo, both home games.
"There are a lot of people who get wide open against them (and take chances), because you know you gotta score," LePage said. "This is a team that you can't sit back and just go over and over for 3 yards and leave a cloud of dust.
"If you don't get a first down, and you give them the ball back, they're going to score."
Southern Boone's Tristan John and Tyson Smith each rushed for more than 100 yards against Versailles, while Blake Dapkus exceeded 100 yards receiving.
Leading the Versailles defense is senior linebacker Quinn Randall, who has 21 total tackles, 19 of which are solo stops. He also has 2 tackles for loss to go with a forced fumble.
"He plays their strong side linebacker position and does a good job of reading keys and getting downhill," LePage said. "They don't blitz, they don't stunt a lot. They play their base defense.
"But that guy is all over the field. What Coby does for them on offense, he does for them on defense."
Williams and Randall will play both ways. At free safety in Versailles' 4-2-5 defense, Williams has 11 tackles, 10 of which are solo stops. Waller, a defensive end, has 13 tackles, 11 unassisted, to go with three tackles for loss.
Last season in Wardsville, Blair Oaks defeated Versailles 37-0 for its third straight shutout win. The Tigers last scored more than 14 points against the Falcons in the 2013 season.
Blair Oaks (3-0) heads into the game coming off a 38-21 win at Boonville, the Falcons' second win against a ranked opponent this season.
The Falcons took advantage of two interceptions returned for touchdowns to win their Tri-County Conference opener and extend their regular-season winning streak to 41 games.
"You get 10 possessions in a game: you're going to get five in the first half, five in the second half," LePage said. " When you make a defensive score, not only have you taken a possession away, but you've taken a plus-seven advantage over them."
Blair Oaks has also seen its offensive production in yardage improve each week, starting with 254 yards against Maryville and working up to 383 yards against Boonville.
Quarterback Dylan Hair also surpassed 200 yards passing for the first time in his career against Boonville, and he completed three difficult passes, one each to Carson Prenger, Cobi Marble and Jake Closser.
"We're seeing the trust between the quarterback and the receivers grow," LePage said. "The biggest thing that I saw as improvement over the past couple weeks is we dropped a couple of passes that were really good passes. Each person who has dropped a pass in that situation came back and made a difficult catch.
"You saw three different receivers make difficult catches, and they want to do that for their teammates."
Notes: Blair Oaks remains No. 1 in Class 3 for the third straight week in this week's Missouri Media Rankings, and received all nine first-place votes for the second straight week. Boonville (2-1) dropped one spot to No. 9 after last week's loss. Through three weeks, no games have been stopped due to injury for Blair Oaks, and one-third of the way through the regular season, the Falcons will have all of their starters available tonight. "We have so many guys playing," LePage said. "We're starting 20 different guys on offense and defense, there are only two guys starting both ways."