SIDNEY — Sidney’s game against Bellefontaine on Thursday will be the third year the program has been featured on Fox 45’s Thursday Night Lights. The allure of being on a game broadcast live to the Dayton area hasn’t faded according to Sidney players.
“It’s definitely still exciting,” Sidney senior receiver/defensive back Keith Lee said. “Being on TV from my sophomore year to my senior year is cool. Under the lights and knowing that people are recording you — it’s just a wonderful time.”
The game is also broadcast live on the station’s website, which allows Sidney natives around the country and world to watch.
“Being in front of the whole Dayton area is exciting, and my Dad living in Myrtle Beach can get to watch me on TV,” senior lineman Dylan “Tank” Vanderpool said.
The excitement may run doubly — or triply — for Bellefontaine. The Chieftains haven’t had a game broadcast in the three seasons since the station began its high school telecasts.
That gives Sidney a second challenge to deal with heading into Thursday’s game, aside from trying to bounce back from last Friday’s 35-7 loss at St. Marys. Adam Doenges said not only do the Yellow Jackets have to fix last week’s mistakes, but they have to match Bellefontaine’s excitement.
“It’s still exciting, because (our players) know relatives are going to watch them on television,” Doenges said. “… But it’s going to be a really, really big game for Bellefontaine kids. We think we’re in no-man’s land and that nobody wants to pay attention or cover us. Bellefontaine — Dayton isn’t going to Bellefontaine, Lima isn’t going to Bellefontaine, Columbus isn’t going to Bellefontaine to cover them. It’s just the local guys that cover them.
“It’s a really big game for them, because they might not get another opportunity to get all eyes on them like this. I think our kids are still excited about it, but we’re going to have to match the excitement of the Bellefontaine players.”
Both Sidney and the Chieftains enter the traditional Week 2 rivalry after opening the season with losses to Western Buckeye League teams.
Bellefontaine lost 28-14 to Wapakoneta last week. The Redskins scored three touchdowns in the first half to take a 21-0 lead. Bellefontaine’s offense didn’t score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter — though running back Garrett Gross returned a kickoff 99 yards in the second quarter.
The Chieftains — much like Sidney — have many new players after losing several key starters from last year’s 10-2 squad. The most notable loss is quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus, who amassed over 2,500 yards of offense and is now at Ferris State.
“He’s probably going to get some playing time for them,” Doenges said of Lyburtus. “He’s a special, special player.”
Grant Smith, the son of Bellefontaine coach Toby Smith, has taken over at quarterback. He threw for 92 yards and had one interception against Wapakoneta. Gross ran for 63 yards on 15 carries, while Smith had five rushing yards on 13 carries with one touchdown.
“He’s a big kid and can run it,” Doenges said of Smith. “He’s not as fast as Lyburtus, but few are. (Gross) is a big, thick running back — probably one of the bigger running backs we’ll face all year. Offensively, it’s a lot of the similar stuff they’ve done, just with a little bit different personnel.”
Doenges said senior wide receiver Jack Clement is Bellefontaine’s best returning skill position player. He had six catches for 38 yards against Wapakoneta and had 344 receiving yards and six touchdowns last year.
“Excellent route runner,” Doenges said. “He’s not going to be the biggest or fastest receiver we face all year, but he runs excellent routes, a lot of good timing routes between him and the quarterback. Our corners are going to have their work cut out for them this week. Last week they had to be physical and come out and make some plays against the run, but this week they’re going to be out in coverage a little bit more.”
Sidney is without 19 players from last year’s team, including Mr. Football finalist Isaiah Bowser. And though the team had many new starters against St. Marys, Doenges was pleased overall — except for five offensive turnovers and a few mental breakdowns on defense.
“We played hard, and that’s all I asked for,” Doenges said. “We practiced really hard all the way up to it. …But when it came down to it, it just wasn’t good enough to win the football game, so we’ve got to find another gear. We’ve got to work a little harder and a little smarter.
“Some the big plays (St. Marys) had, it was just mental breakdowns with guys just not getting to their spot. …It’s something that we’ve worked on, where you have to be to prevent big plays and trick plays coming at you. I anticipate being more mentally sound going into this week.”
After having few turnovers in preseason scrimmages, Sidney lost the ball five times against the Roughriders. Junior quarterback Ryan Dunham had three interceptions (two on deflections) and one fumble, while senior receiver Ratez Roberts fumbled on a failed hook and lateral.
“I think (our youth) contributed,” Doenges said. “… We put Dunham in some situations where he had to make some plays. That one where he threw an interception into the end zone was a bad decision. He tried to make a play when there wasn’t one there on a second-and-five. …It was a good learning point and a teaching point. He’s a hard worker, and I anticipate him coming out this week and doing better.”
Lee, who missed over two weeks in preseason with a shoulder injury, said Sidney is focused on playing better on Thursday.
“We just had a lot of tiny mistakes that we can fix,” Lee said. “We’re focused on Bellefontaine. …I think we athletically can beat them but they’re just really hard-nosed. I think we’re two evenly compared teams, and we’re going to have to work hard to come out on top.”
Vanderpool said the team re-focused on the Chieftains immediately.
“Losing to St. Marys like that was heartbreaking …but 24 hours later, our mind was on Bellefontaine,” Vanderpool said. “We’re working harder in practice. We’re not sitting there complaining on St. Marys, we’re ready to get back it.”
Thursday’s game can be seen live on channel 45.2 — which is on channel 995 on Spectrum Cable or channel 44 on Dish Network. The broadcast can also be watched live online on mytvdayton.com.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.