SIDNEY — The last two Wednesdays, Sidney Memorial Stadium has hosted hundreds of football players. As a Lima Senior assistant coach said last Wednesday, it was almost like football game was going on.
Almost — because 7-on-7 passing camps, no matter how good for practice, aren’t the real thing. There’s no contact allowed, no running plays, and no lineman.
For Sidney, it’s good 7-on-7s aren’t quite a real football game. Even during their 10-2 campaign last year, the Yellow Jackets didn’t do well in the preseason passing camps.
“We’re traditionally not very good at 7-on-7s,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “Last year I think we were probably something like 3-8. We don’t want to be playing our best football right now — nobody does — so I think we’ve got a lot of room to keep working.”
Sidney hosted Dayton Ponitz, West Liberty-Salem and Lima Senior in its final 7-on-7 of the season last Wednesday. The Yellow Jackets also used the remainder of its 10 summer practice days, which the OHSAA allows all teams in the state to use for non-contact preparation prior to the start of preseason practice.
Sidney — and all teams across the state — will begin practice on Monday.
“Offseason weightlifting and conditioning has been going really, really well, and we’re right where we need to be heading into official practice,” Doenges said. “The kids are in high spirits and we’re moving in the right direction.”
All four squads played each other in 40-minute sessions on Wednesday, with the varsity contingents facing off in the first 20 minutes. In the varsity portions, Sidney beat Ponitz one touchdown to none, tied West Liberty-Salem 2-2 and lost to Lima Senior 3-0.
The passing camp was the last glimpse the coaching staff will get of the squad against an opponent until Sidney’s first scrimmage, which is Aug. 7. Doenges said he’s been happy with the team’s improvement, especially considering the squad is without 18 seniors from last year’s team and starting quarterback Andre Gordon, who’s transferred.
Doenges said he’s seen new leaders this summer among the incoming seniors, including defensive back Josiah Hudgins.
“He’s come out of his shell a little bit,” Doenges said of Hudgins. “He’s a quiet kid, but he can be a leader. We’re going to look at him on the offensive and defensive side of the ball to make plays for us this year.”
Doenges said he’s also liked what he’s seen from senior lineman Dylan Vanderpool, Cooper Collingsworth, Brayden Dean and Joey Bishop.
“We’ve got four seniors on the line right now, and that’s a difference, because last year we had 12,” Doenges said. “… I said it last year and I’ll always say it: I think what your senior lineman do predicates what your team is going to be like that year.
“Our four this year… they’re all guys that have been starters and lettermen for two or three years. We’re going to go as they go.”
The OHSAA mandates that the five days of preseason practice are non-contact. Players can’t wear shoulder pads until the third day, and full equipment isn’t allowed until the fifth day. Teams are allowed to begin contact practice next Saturday.
Sidney has three scrimmages before its Aug. 24 season opener at St. Marys. The Yellow Jackets will host Lehman Catholic on Aug. 7 in a scrimmage closed to the public, travel to Edgewood on Aug. 11 and travel to Chaminade-Julienne on Aug. 17.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.