SIDNEY — Sidney senior center Bryon Jones was one of three starting linemen who didn’t play due to injury in a Miami Valley League game against West Carrollton two weeks ago.
After returning last week in a blowout loss to Piqua, Jones said the squad wanted to set a different tone in a Division II playoff opener against the Pirates on Friday.
The Yellow Jackets did that, as they jumped out to a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter and ran away in the second half to a 31-12 victory at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
“We talked about how we had to be better Monday through Thursday (after losing to Piqua),” Jones said. “We’ve got to be perfect Monday through Thursday in practice to come out Friday and be perfect. That’s what we focused on this week.”
The Yellow Jackets’ defense was even better in Tuesday’s showing. West Carrollton (1-4) turned the ball over on downs six times, and junior quarterback Kamaury Cleveland had two passes intercepted by Sidney senior outside linebacker Curtis Spangler.
“West Carrollton was a little undermanned with their running back (Tyron Darby) out tonight, but that’s still an explosive offense, especially with Kamaury handling every snap,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “I’m proud of both sides of the ball tonight.
“West Carrollton came out and showed us a couple different looks, and I thought Coach (Kyle) Coleman and the defensive staff did a nice job adjusting. The kids responded well tonight.”
Sidney took advantage of the short fields it worked with. The squad built a 17-6 lead by halftime and then added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
“This was good. We probably left some points out there on the field tonight too,” Doenges said. “Our kids responded well. We had a little bit of adversity here and there, but we kept together and kept working. I thought the kids did a nice job of picking each other up tonight if there were any mistakes.”
Every team was made eligible for the playoffs this year by the OHSAA. The victory was the first postseason win for almost all the team’s players. Few of the team’s seniors were on varsity when the squad beat Belmont in a playoff game in 2017, and none earned playing time.
“This is everyone’s first playoff experience,” Jones said. “In the locker room before the game, no one else has got that playoff experience before. It feels real good to get a playoff win.”
It’s the first time since 1989 Sidney has played an opponent twice in one season, and it won’t have to wait long to face another opponent for the second time in the same year.
The No. 10 seed Yellow Jackets will travel to Stebbins for a second-round playoff game next Friday. The No. 7 seed Indians (4-2) edged the Yellow Jackets 22-20 in an MVL game on Sept. 4 in Riverside.
“Monday through Thursday being perfect, that’s all we need to worry about right now, then we’ll show out Friday,” Jones said.
Sidney senior quarterback Cedric Johnson unofficially completed 13-of-21 passes in windy conditions for 167 yards with one touchdown and ran for 111 yards and three TDs on 14 carries in the victory.
Four Sidney receivers had catches of 17 yards or more. Senior Avante Martin led the group with five receptions of 62 yards, while senior Jacob Wheeler had a game-high 84 receiving yards on three catches.
“We preach to our kids that whatever the weather is, we have to throw the ball, and we were able to do that tonight,” Doenges said. “(Johnson) has gotten better at (staying in the pocket) as he’s gotten more reps this year and has learned to trust your pocket and step up into it and find some kids.”
Spangler’s first interception came on the first drive of the game. He picked off a tipped pass from Cleveland at West Carrollton’s 41-yard line, and the Yellow Jackets quickly drove down and scored.
“Curtis Spangler is one of those kids day-in, day-out that just does things the right way throughout the entire year,” Doenges said. “It’s nice when a kid that just does everything the right way, has great practice habits, great education habits and is a great kid in class, does good things (on the field). He made some nice plays for us tonight.”
E.J. Davis scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with 7:40 left in the first quarter to give Sidney a 7-0 lead. The Pirates went three-and-out and punted to their own 26-yard line, and the Yellow Jackets scored on a 41-yard field goal by Carson Taylor with 5:10 left to take a 10-0 lead.
The Pirates turned the ball over on downs on their next two drives, but Sidney couldn’t capitalize either time and had one field goal try blocked in the second quarter.
West Carrollton scored on its next drive after the blocked field goal after Cleveland ran in from 12 yards out. The Pirates failed on a two-point conversion try, which allowed Sidney to maintain a 10-6 lead with 2:41 left.
The Yellow Jackets quickly responded. Johnson scored on a 27-yard TD run with 1:50 left in the second quarter to boost the lead to 17-6.
West Carrollton recovered a punt attempt Sidney touched late in the first quarter but turned the ball over on downs just before halftime.
The squads combined to turn the ball over on downs three times in the third quarter. The Pirates turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth, and Sidney quickly drove down and scored when Johnson ran in from 8 yards out to boost the lead to 24-6 with 9:36 left.
Jorden Berry scored on an 11-yard TD run with 8:07 left to cut the gap to 24-12.
After Sidney was forced to punt, Spangler intercepted a pass near midfield, and Johnson scored on a 14-yard run with 1:37 left to finish the game’s scoring.
“He did a good job running,” Doenges said of Johnson. “When you’ve got a kid like (junior RB) E.J. Davis in the backfield blocking, who’s willing to one-on-one with a linebacker, you’re in a good spot. On that last touchdown, he gave Ced a chance. He pretty much just rode behind E.J., and he’s a phenomenal blocker.”
Friday’s game potentially could have been Sidney’s last home game this season, though athletic director Mitch Hoying said he’s hopeful another home game will be scheduled.
Teams are permitted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association to play up to 10 regular-season games this year and can schedule additional postseason games after they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. Squads can play regular-season games through Nov. 14.
Cleveland completed 16-of-34 passes for 134 yards and ran for 74 yards on 12 carries. Dujuan Howard ran for 96 yards on 18 carries.