SIDNEY — Sidney’s offense moved the ball well through all its scrimmages but had problems even holding it during a season opener at St. Marys. So for the team’s second game against Bellefontaine, they brought back one feature from their scrimmages they didn’t have against the Roughriders: EJ Davis.
Davis, a freshman quarterback, worked his way up to the No. 2 spot behind Ryan Dunham in preseason practice and played extensively in scrimmages. He impressed the coaching staff so much they quickly envisioned bringing him in on special packages in regular season.
Davis stayed on the sidelines against St. Marys, but he split time with Dunham against Bellefontaine.
The two-quarterback system worked well in the Yellow Jackets’ 31-28 win, which was televised locally by Fox 45. Sidney had 368 yards and no turnovers in the win — a marked improvement over 192 yards and five turnovers in Week 1.
Dunham, who had three interceptions and one fumble in the season opener, completed 10-of-12 passes for 138 yards with one touchdown. He didn’t have any turnovers and saw last week’s quarterback rating of 46.8 jump to 207.4 this week.
“It feels great, a great way to bounce back,” Dunham said. “We maintained our intensity on offense.”
Davis has quickly gained a reputation as a hard runner — as displayed in the junior varsity portion of Sidney’s scrimmage against Chaminade-Julienne, in which he rammed his helmet into a defender at the end of a long run.
He ran for 96 yards and one touchdown on Thursday and completed 1 of 2 passes for 50 yards.
“My teammates just started blocking and helped me get to where I am,” Davis said. “I can’t do anything besides thanking them for everything they do for me and for making me a better person every day.”
Senior running back/receiver Caleb Harris said the two QBs work well together in practice. He said the offense didn’t miss a beat with either under center.
“We put a package in this week for EJ to get him a couple more reps in, and it worked out great,” Harris said.
Davis was brought in mostly for designed running plays, but he burned Bellefontaine’s defense on a 50-yard pass to Lathan Jones late in the third quarter.
“He can throw it,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “He’s not going to sling it around right now like Ryan can. He’s still got a lot of work to do on his mechanics as far as being a quarterback, but he can do it. Obviously right now the bigger part of the offense he knows are run packages, and he did make a couple of mistakes. But it’s still a lot of fun to watch what (he) can do.”
Another close win
Thursday’s win was similar to many Sidney had during last season’s 10-2 campaign. The Yellow Jackets won five games by nine points or less, including a 42-33 win over the Chieftains.
Doenges said the ability to win close games shows the mental strength the players have.
“We’re starting to figure out how to get through some of that stuff,” Doenges said. “We told them at halftime (tonight) the tougher team physically and mentally was going to come out and win this game, and that was us. …I was really proud of the way we just buckled down, gritted our teeth and said, ‘Let’s get this done.’ We did.”
‘Iron Man’ Harris
Doenges called Harris the team’s Iron Man after Thursday’s win. It’s an accurate description for the senior, who plays at running back, receiver and safety.
“He’s our dude,” Doenges said. “When you lose some of the weapons like we did, other guys just have to step it up and figure it out. Caleb is our utility knife.”
Harris had five assisted tackles in Thursday’s win and ran for 55 yards on 16 carries. He scored the game’s go-ahead touchdown on a four-yard run and broke through the middle on a third down with just over a minute left to give Sidney a fresh set of downs.
TV deja vu
Harris’ last run was a bit of television deja vu for Sidney.
The Yellow Jackets faced a third down at their own 16 with about a minute left and called for Harris to run up the middle. He broke through the line and sprinted 84 yards for a touchdown. Though a block in the back penalty negated the score, the run gave Sidney the first down needed to run out the clock.
“Short yardage situation, that can happen,” Harris said of his final big run. “I just bursted through there, saw green grass and took off.”
It was reminiscent of a run graduated running back Isaiah Bowser had last season in a televised game against Tippecanoe.
With a tie score, the Yellow Jackets faced a third down deep in their own territory late in the game and gave the ball to Bowser, who broke through the middle and ran 71 yards for a touchdown.
Harris and Doenges both said they thought of Bowser’s run during Thursday’s play.
“I can’t quite remember what both the calls were, but it was a similar inside-run type concept,” Doenges said. “It feels good to be able to do that every once in a while to teams, because it does happen sometimes against us.”
Freshmen making waves
Aside from Davis, freshmen receiver Quamir “Philly” Brown and offensive lineman Evan Kennedy are also contributing on varsity. The three were a part of a class that was undefeated in middle school and didn’t win a game by a margin any smaller than 14 points according to Doenges.
Brown ran three times for 29 yards on Thursday and caught one pass for 13 yards. Kennedy has started at offensive tackle both games this season.
“There’s going to be some growing pains with EJ Davis and Philly Brown as they’re realizing they’re not playing against 13-year-olds anymore at the junior high level,” Doenges said. “Once they start getting more of a handle on the speed of the game and the playbook, they’re going to be a vital part of this offense.
“I don’t want to forget about (Kennedy). He’s played every single offensive snap and isn’t coming out. Some of those kids from that freshmen class are getting mixed in, and it takes good senior leadership for them to be able to come in and take some reps from those kids.”
Sidney (1-1) will travel to Welcome Stadium to take on Belmont next Friday at 8 p.m. Belmont hosted Middletown Fenwick on Friday. The Bison — which Sidney beat in regional quarterfinal last year — opened the season with a 43-8 loss at Troy.
Thursday’s game will be rebroadcast on Sunday at noon on ABC 22.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.