SIDNEY — The idea for Sidney junior Julius Spradling to see time at quarterback came as an answer to a question in offseason training: who is the squad’s backup QB?
Spradling, who played QB in middle school, quickly emerged as the best option. Now entering the midpoint of the season, he is splitting time at the position with two-year starter Tucker Herron and is helping to lead improved production.
“The way things transpired, we didn’t use it much (at the beginning of the season),” Sidney coach Dave Taynor said. “We had it as part of our package going into scrimmages and didn’t want to put it on film that much. …We had intentions against Stebbins to use it quite a bit, but he got ejected for the targeting call.
“So it just worked out that it really made its debut in earnest against Xenia. It’s been something he’s been working on quite a bit.”
Spradling, who played at receiver and running back in his first two years on varsity, split time about evenly with Herron in a 56-6 win over Fairborn on Friday. He completed his lone passing attempt, a deep throw on a 41-yard reception by Perry “Tank” Fleming.
“He throws a good ball, a tight ball,” Taynor said. “That throw he had Friday, it wasn’t his tightest, but he slipped as he was came to balance to throw, so that was basically all arm; he didn’t have his lower body in it.”
Spradling had 354 all-purpose yards against Fairborn and scored four TDs. He ran for 100 yards and one TD on eight carries and caught two passes from Herron, including a short pass late in the first quarter he took 84 yards up the visitor’s sideline for a TD.
Taynor, a former Urbana University and Graham High School coach, is in his first year. He said he’s pleased with the improvement the squad has shown.
“It’s not been a super smooth progression, but we’ve got guys that are really, truly learning to start valuing preparation,” Taynor said. “They are putting the time in to make sure what they do on Friday nights is sound.”
He was an All-American offensive lineman as a player at Urbana University, and improving Sidney’s lines has been an area of focus. He said there’s been much improvement since a 46-19 loss to Bellefontaine in Week 1.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to focus on is to be solid in our blocking schemes,” Taynor said. “We run three true schemes. …Being able to distinguish those as being different and what we’re trying to do is something they’ve really embraced.
“… Against Xenia (a 24-15 loss in Week 3), we did not do well blocking schematically. It was a little bit of panic. We’d panic and not block well. At times we did, and when we did, we broke big plays.”
Taynor said there has also been much improvement defensively, including on the line.
“Our gap responsibility has improved leaps and bounds from the first game,” Taynor said. “… It was really bad that first game. Against Stebbins, we made some discernable improvement. I think against Xenia and Fairborn, we were gap sound in just about every fit.
“… If you get beat physically, that’s a different thing. If we lose those battles, we’ll get better at the physical stuff. The mental part is where we need to do well and where we’ve improved, but it needs to continue to move forward.”
Spradling, a free safety, is also the squad’s leading tackler; he has made 42 tackles (34 solo, 16 assisted), three of which are for loss. He has also recovered two fumbles.
His big tackle numbers have come in part to chasing plays down. But Taynor said the rest of the defensive corps is improving.
“You want a free safety to be in the play,” Taynor said. “The way we play, he is going to be hitter a majority of the time. But I want him making plays at the line of scrimmage, or 2- or 3-yards down field, not chasing stuff down because we got out of a gap fit. I think that’s the area where we’ve made the biggest improvement throughout the season, and we have to continue to do so.”
The Yellow Jackets have an opportunity for a winning streak, as they travel to West Carrollton (0-4) this Friday and host Greenville (0-4) in Week 6. The squads have lost all their games in lopsided fashions.
But Taynor said the Yellow Jackets must continue to fix their mistakes and not overlook either opponent, starting with West Carrollton.
The Pirates led undefeated Xenia 7-6 at halftime in Week 2 before losing 37-7.
“West Carrollton is one of the more difficult teams to prepare for from a defensive standpoint, because they’re going to always have an extra player that’s within the core of the box,” Taynor said. “Being assignment conscience is very important.”
Anna to face Minster, Stephey
The Rockets will aim to get back on track after a 37-7 loss to Coldwater when they travel to Minster for a Midwest Athletic Conference game on Friday.
The Wildcats improved to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in MAC play with a 41-20 win over Fort Recovery in Week 3; they had lost 42-7 to Marion Local in Week 2.
Minster junior quarterback Brogan Stephey leads the conference in rushing yards (406) and is second in passing yards (689). He has run for nine TDs and thrown for six.
Anna junior running back Aaron Shappie has run for 420 yards while junior Zach Osborn has run for 237.
The Rockets (2-2, 1-1) managed 113 yards of offense against Coldwater.
Fort Loramie looks to get back on track
The Redskins have a chance to get going this Friday against a struggling opponent when they host Dayton Meadowdale.
The Lions dropped to 1-3 with a 44-6 loss to Cincinnati Taft on Saturday. They beat Woodward 22-18 in Week 2, but their other games have all been lopsided losses.
Meadowdale had 130 yards of offense against Taft. Almost all their offense has come on the ground; senior Te’Yann Martin has run for 271 yards and two TDs and Jaylen Thomas has run for 178 yards and two TDs.
Fort Loramie had a season-high of 28 passing attempts against Columbus Academy last week. Junior Max Maurer completed 17 passes for 210 yards with one interception. Six receivers caught passes in the game.
Lehman Catholic to face improved Miami East
Lehman and Miami East look to be the two most improved squads in the Three Rivers Conference and will face off on Friday in Casstown.
The Vikings (3-1, 1-0 TRC) opened league play with a 21-6 win at Northridge last week. They beat Greenon (28-6) and Northwestern (17-15) in nonconference play and lost to Carlisle (34-20).
Miami East is averaging 291 yards of offense per game. Freshman quarterback KJ Gustin has thrown for 669 yards and six TDs, senior receiver Michael Hohenstein has caught 23 passes for 324 yards and two TDs and junior RB Aaron Milles has caught 89 passes for 402 yards and three TDs.
The Vikings have made a TRC-best 18 sacks. Senior lineman Lonnie McDaniel leads the league with six.
Lehman leads the league with an average of 386 yards per game. Senior QB Donovan O’Leary has thrown for a TRC-best 790 yards and ranks third among league players with 392 rushing yards. Sophomore receiver Turner Lachey ranks second behind Hohenstein with 300 receiving yards.
The Cavaliers will play on Miami East’s new turf field on Friday. Like many Dayton-area schools, Miami East’s field project was funded in part by a hospital. Premier Health, which operates Upper Valley Medical Center, gave over $500,000 to the project.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.