SIDNEY — The smell of rising dough often meanders its way from Aunt Millie’s bakery across 4th Avenue to Sidney Memorial Stadium.
That aroma filled the field during a combined practice and scrimmage between Sidney and Lehman Catholic on Tuesday, but coaches Adam Doenges and Dick Roll liked the smell of what their teams were cooking better.
The team’s varsity players faced off in two full-contact, 10-play series and one 7-on-7 series. The Yellow Jackets, which had about 80 players in attendance, largely outplayed the Cavaliers.
Sidney scored one touchdown in the first 10-play series and two touchdowns in 7-on-7 action. Lehman, which has 25 players on its roster this season, struggled to move the ball for most of the night but did score in the 7-on-7 portion when senior quarterback Elliott Gilardi threw a long touchdown pass to junior RJ Bertini.
The most important thing according Doenges and Roll, though, was progress.
“We’ll evaluate as a staff how this went, but I think it was a good thing,” Doenges, who’s entering his eighth season as Sidney’s coach, said. “… The way we ran this and structured this like a practice with another team was good. I liked it.”
The scrimmage was more important than ever for Lehman according to Roll. The Cavaliers’ roster is its smallest since Roll took over the program 13 years ago. He hadn’t had less than 34 players before this season.
“We’ve got to come out and play somebody else,” Roll said. “We can’t go live in practice hardly. We go against bags, coaches holding bags. I thought we got better as the scrimmage went on. Some of these kids came out and lacked confidence because they’ve never played on varsity. I think they realized ‘Hey, I can do it.’ We expect them to improve next scrimmage.”
Sidney and Lehman both had two scrimmages in recent years but added each other this year to boost their total to three.
The scrimmage was closed to the public, which the teams did to limit distractions for players. Doenges said that may change in future years.
“Moving forward, we may do a hybrid of this, and add a third team that maybe also has lower numbers so we can keep some of our other kids engaged,” Doenges said. “I thought it was very, very productive.
“It’s good for our kids from this community to work against each other and get better on both sides of the ball. There’s no reason why this town can’t produce two playoff teams, two quality football teams, each year. It’s nice we were able to come together, work together and make each other better on the field.”
Several of Sidney’s players made impressive plays. Senior Caleb Harris had several long early runs, including a 35-yard run on the Yellow Jackets’ touchdown drive in the full-contact portion.
“He’s a special kid,” Doenges said of Harris. “He’s always been a great athlete, but he works tirelessly on his body, on his lifting, on his conditioning. He’s been a great kid and he’s grown as a leader. He’s going to be a kid we rely a lot on this year on all three phases of our game.”
Freshman receiver Quamir “Philly” Brown maneuvered his way through Lehman defenders for a 25-yard gain after a catch on the drive, and freshman quarterback EJ Davis capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run after a fake handoff.
Brown caught two long touchdown passes in the 7-on-7 portion — one from junior quarterback Ryan Dunham and one from Davis.
Sidney will travel to Trenton for a quad scrimmage at Edgewood on Saturday. Aside from Edgewood, Clinton Massie and Milford will also participate.
“We’ve been trying to do a better job with (taking the fight to teams),” Doenges said. “Once we’re playing, we’ve got to be ready to go. Whether it’s an individual drill, whether it’s going against your own guy or whether it’s going against a different color jersey. It’s getting that mindset that you’ve got to set the tone and take the fight to them. …I was happy that tonight, we set that tone.”
Lehman will travel to St. Henry for a scrimmage on Friday night.
“We’ve got some good kids back, and we’re still working hard,” Roll said. “We can still do a lot this year.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.