OSAGE BEACH — With or without their star quarterback, the School of the Osage Indians figure to be a handful for a Versailles squad still in search for its first victory of 2020.
A pair of struggling Tri-County Conference rivals will clash tonight when the Versailles Tigers travel to Osage Beach for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Both teams are trying to snap four-game losing streaks. Osage comes in 2-5 overall and 1-3 in conference play, while the Tigers are 0-4 and 0-2.
After missing three consecutive games due to COVID-19 cancellations, Versailles has dropped games in back-to-back weeks, including last week's 54-6 setback to Boonville. The turnover-plagued Indians dropped their fourth straight last week, committing five turnovers while playing their backup quarterback in a 48-21 loss to fill-in opponent O'Fallon Christian.
Last week, Osage was without standout junior quarterback Brock McLaughlin, out with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Starting in his place was sophomore Konner Vaughn.
Behind Vaughn the Indians moved the ball — totaling 483 yards of offense — but could not overcome the turnovers.
McLaughlin is expected to return to the lineup tonight, Osage coach Devin Johnson said
"We had five turnovers that hurt," Johnson said. "We moved the ball, but we threw two pick-6s and there were a couple of good drives we just weren't able to finish. Their scores came off of big plays, primarily."
The speedy O'Fallon Christian squad blew out to a 28-0 halftime lead. O'Fallon Christian got 200 yards and four TDs passing from senior quarterback Kaden McMullen, including scoring passes of 84, and two from 64 yards out.
During their four-game losing skid, the Indians have allowed 224 points — an average of 56 per game.
"We know Osage has given up some points," Versailles coach Kirk Hannah said. "I hope our kids have a great mentality about the game. We've just been outmatched in games this season. Osage is big and does some things pretty well. But we've had some success against them in the recent past. Our kids know their kids."
A return of McLaughlin would be a big boost for Osage. In six games, McLaughlin has completed 74-of-106 passes for 1,017 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for a team-high 705 yards and nine TDs.
Also for Osage, sophomore running back Eric Hood has 479 rushing yards and four TDs, senior fullback Jack Creasy has 374 yards and four TDs and senior tailback Kenan Webb has 295 yards and three TDs.
Sophomore wideout Hunter Graber is Osage's leading receiver with 28 receptions for 402 yards and four TDs while senior wideout Drew Elley has 19 catches for 268 yards, junior wideout Keigan Vaughn has 13 catches for 247 yards and Webb has 12 catches for 106 yards.
Safety Keigan Vaughn leads the Indians with 48 tackles while Hood, a linebacker, has 47 and safety Konner Vaughn has added 45.
"We'll try to prepare for both (the run and pass)," Hannah said. "Osage will try to run the ball. They've got a big offensive line and have got some other weapons they can distribute the ball to. But their mentality is to run the ball."
The Tigers have managed to score just five touchdowns in four games. But with their defensive struggles this season, Johnson isn't taking anyone lightly.
"They've got a very dynamic quarterback (junior Adam Radcliff) who runs well and throws a good ball," Johnson said of Versailles. "And on defense they've got some good players, too. You watch them play and they play hard. They swarm to the ball. Unfortunately for them it's no telling how much practice time they've missed. The certainly have some bright spots."
In four games, Radcliff has completed 26-of-47 passes for 293 yards, three interceptions and three touchdown, and leads the team in rushing with 148 yards.
Senior wideout Michael Bell has caught 16 passes for 222 yards.
Versailles' lone touchdown against Boonville last week was a 65-yard pass from Radcliff to Bell. Bell ended up catching six passes for 124 yards in the game.
Both teams are hoping to use tonight's tilt to polish things for their respective upcoming district schedules.
"You want momentum going into district," Johnson said. "This would be a good one to win. We're the fourth seed now but we feel our district is pretty wide open. We're still hoping to get to the third seed."