DAYTON — For a team that’s replacing 19 players, Sidney showed on Friday night it is way ahead of where it could be. With a few minor adjustments, the Yellow Jackets could have found themselves on the other end of Chaminade-Julienne’s 33-21 victory in a Jamboree scrimmage on Thursday.
But a few execution issues — like bad snaps and dropped passes — and bad third-down defense helped the Eagles earn a win at Roger Glass Stadium. The varsity squads scrimmaged for three quarters, while the JV squads played in the fourth.
Sidney coach Adam Doenges was pleased after the scrimmage because he thinks the team is close to performing at the same level as last year’s 10-2 squad — and close to performing better defensively.
“‘Close’ and ‘almost’ are big words that we used with our players,” Doenges said. “We’re right there. There’s some mental mistakes that have got to get shored up.”
Sidney’s defense was able to contain Chaminade through most of the scrimmage — except for third down.
The Eagles scored one touchdown on a third down and converted several other third-and-longs to keep drives alive.
“We’re so close (on defense),” Doenges said. “The amount of work the defensive staff, and I’m a part of that, have done putting in things is a lot. It’s just a different buy-in. You just have to have that mindset on defense, all 11 and every single play. We had a lot of 3rd-and-5s, 3rd-and-8s, 3rd-and-20s and we just didn’t finish off those drives.
“The positive thing is we put them in those 3rd-and-5s and 3rd-and-8s. Those kids, we’ve just got to make sure we can finish those drives. We’re close. I liked our run defense tonight, which I thought was pretty good and has been a weak spot for us.”
Quarterback Ryan Minor, a Stebbins transfer, was a big reason why CJ was able to effectively convert third downs. His scrambling ability aided in his 40 unofficial rushing yards and 210 passing yards. He had two long passes where he scrambled, then charged the line of scrimmage and threw.
“It’s one of those things, if we knew what a special player he was before we came into this scrimmage, we may have put in a different game plan, like something we used with Dezmin Lyburtus at Bellefontaine,” Doenges said. “… We tried to make some adjustments on the fly and some worked and some didn’t. We’ll work to continue to improve.”
Sidney’s offense unofficially had 262 yards of offense in three quarters, 208 of which came from junior quarterback Ryan Dunham.
Dunham took all but two snaps under center and completed 10 of 14 passes with one touchdown. He showed a scrambling ability and had ample time to throw, as Sidney’s offensive line beat back CJ’s defensive line throughout the scrimmage.
“I don’t know how much pressure (CJ) was bringing, but at the same time, I thought we kept (Dunham) pretty clean. I don’t think he got sacked,” Doenges said. “Those linemen have not been grading out pretty well in our scrimmages so far, and it’s been a source for them. They want to improve, and tonight I thought they did.
“… Ryan had a really, really good week of practice. He took that next step of being the leader of our offense, and just took more control. The balls were good tonight and the timing was there.”
Several receivers made good plays, including Josiah Hudgins, who had a fumble after a catch in the first quarter but battled back and had a 34-yard reception that set up a touchdown in the third quarter.
Sidney got the ball to start, and Dunham threw a 43-yard pass to Hudgins at Chaminade-Julienne’s 22-yard line. Hudgins fumbled as he was brought down, though, and the Eagles recovered.
CJ, which finished 9-4 a year ago, drove 72 yards on six plays and scored with 9:22 left after Minor threw a 35-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Kenyon Owens.
The Yellow Jackets responded fast, as Dunham threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Darren Taborn on a 3rd-and-11 with 7:15 left to tie the score.
Sidney forced a punt on CJ’s next drive and took over on its own 13. The Yellow Jackets went three-and-out and tried to punt, but the snap went to the back of the end zone and out of bounds right as Chaminade players dove to try to recover it.
The Eagles scored on their drive that resulted from the safety. On a third-and-goal, Minor ran the lines, dodged a couple of defenders and scored on an 8-yard run. The touchdown came with 21.2 seconds left and pushed CJ’s lead to 16-7.
Marquis Henry scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 4:13 left in the second to push the Eagles’ lead to 16 points. Sidney responded with a methodical drive that featured Caleb Harris heavily on running on and passing plays.
Christian Retterer scored a 4-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds left in the second to bring Sidney within 23-14.
CJ scored right before halftime, though, with a long drive. After a couple of quick passes, Minor scrambled for a 6-yard touchdown with 9.5 seconds left to push the Eagles’ lead to 30-14.
Chaminade scored on its first drive of the second half on a 28-yard field goal by Jake Staub.
EJ Davis was picked off late in the third after a Sidney receiver was shoved to the ground and no pass interference was called. The Yellow Jackets quickly forced a punt, and Dunham threw a 34-yard pass to Hudgins along the home sideline.
It appeared Hudgins scored, but an official said he stepped out of bounds at the 6. Harris scored on the next play, though, and kicked his third extra point of the night to bring Sidney within 33-21.
CJ was the last tough scrimmage opponent for the Yellow Jackets, who faced five teams that made the playoffs last year in preseason games. Sidney now has a week to prepare for next Friday’s season opener at St. Marys. Several Roughriders coaches were in the stands.
“Today’s only a positive day if we can back it up and correct our mistakes, and we did that last week (after a quad scrimmage),” Doenges said. “We’re going to have to come back tomorrow and do the same thing over the weekend and shore up those mistakes.”
“… We’re almost there. ‘Almost’ and ‘close’ are the words we’re going to keep saying,” Doenges said. “We can be a pretty good football team on both sides of the ball if we can close the gaps on those almosts.”
The Eagles finished unofficially with 367 yards of offense. Minor completed 12 of 17 passes.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.