VERSAILLES — The Versailles Tigers finally step out of the Tri-County Conference to begin postseason play.
And the Tigers are facing a squad they are still very familiar with.
Fifth-seeded Versailles travels to fourth-seeded El Dorado Springs tonight for first-round action in the Class 2 District 4 Tournament (7 p.m. kickoff).
El Dorado Springs comes in with a 4-5 record while 2-7 Versailles got the fifth seed ahead of 4-5 Stockton due to strength of schedule.
In other District 4 first-round games tonight, top-seeded Fair Grove (8-0) hosts eighth-seeded Butler (1-8), seventh-seeded California (1-8) plays at second-seeded Lamar (7-2), and Stockton travels to third-seeded Warsaw (6-3).
In district semifinal play next Friday at the location of the highest seed, the Versailles/El Dorado Springs winner will play the Fair Grove/Butler winner, while the Lamar/California winner meets the Warsaw/Stockton winner.
The District 4 championship game is set for Nov. 15.
Despite their struggles this fall, the Tigers have won two of their last three games, although last Friday they dropped a road game to Hallsville 50-24.
The Bulldogs come into postseason action with a three-game losing skid, having allowed 87 points during that span. Last Friday, El Dorado Springs lost 26-21 to Adrian 26.
Versailles is no stranger to the Bulldogs.
This is the third consecutive year the two have met in districts, with the Tigers winning the previous two contests. Versailles defeated El Dorado Springs 48-36 last season in the semifinals before falling to Lamar in the championship game, and in 2017, the Tigers posted a 34-29 first-round victory against the Bulldogs before losing to Fair Grove in the semifinals.
In addition, the two head coaches — Versailles' Broc Silvers and El Dorado Springs' Kelly Beckner — are friends from when they spent a semester together in college. The two run very similar systems now.
So there will be few surprises. Beckner, formerly an assistant at Mount Vernon, is in his first season as El Dorado Springs head coach.
"Their (former) coach left for California (Mo.)," Silvers said of El Dorado Springs. "It takes a while for coaches to know their team. I think they've done a good job. Coach Beckner and I went to college together and they run an identical spread system to us. It will be about execution, turnovers and mistakes.
"I'm sure they'll have a wrinkle or two, just like we will. We'll run some trick plays. We have nothing to lose. We're the lower seed and are not expected to win. I'm excited."
The two spread offenses have produced similar numbers. Versailles is averaging 28.1 points per game while El Dorado Springs averages 26.2 points. And both offenses are led by dual-threat quarterbacks — senior Coby Williams for the Tigers and junior Clayton Collins for the Bulldogs.
Defense has been the major problem for Versailles this fall, allowing an average of 43.7 points. El Dorado Springs allows 25.2 points.
"Their quarterback, Collins, is probably their best runner, too," Silvers said of El Dorado Springs. "He's not afraid to pull it down. And Derek Hayes, a receiver, has some height and length to him. Their best lineman, (junior Trey Graves), plays both ways."
The Tigers come in after playing a solid second half against highly-regarded Hallsville last week.
Hallsville rolled up a 28-6 halftime advantage. After intermission, the Tigers played evenly.
Williams completed 17-of-26 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns against Hallsville. Senior wideout Dallas Waller had another huge game, catching 13 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
Versailles finished Tri-County play with a 2-5 record.
"After we spotted them 21 points we played point-for-point with them," Silvers said. "We got off to a slow start, and we're not good enough defensively to overcome that."
For the Tigers, Williams has rushed for 1,045 yards on 187 carries and 18 touchdowns while completing 151-of-241 passes for 1,856 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Waller is one of the state's top receivers with 86 receptions for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns, while senior wideout Brayden Morrison has 22 catches for 241 yards and four touchdowns and junior wideout Michael Bell has 20 catches for 286 yards.
Senior linebacker Quinn Randall leads Versailles in tackles with 79 tackles — 69 solo and 7.5 for losses.