SIDNEY — Stopping the run is a work in progress for Sidney’s defense. The Yellow Jackets will get another opportunity on Friday.
Sidney will travel to Dayton to face Belmont and coach Earl White’s patented double wing-T offense, which has been a force in the Dayton City League for nearly two decades. The Yellow Jackets beat the Bison in an opening-round playoff game last season in Sidney.
It’s the third consecutive game Sidney (1-1) will face a run-oriented opponent. St. Marys gained 240 rushing yards in a 35-7 win over the Yellow Jackets in Week 1 while Bellefontaine ran for 339 yards in Sidney’s 31-28 win last Thursday.
“It’s going to a take a good group effort as far as getting to the ball, pursuit angles and that type of stuff this week,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We’re going to have to do a better job against it than we did last week.”
Sidney’s defense has shown some improvement this season but has still given up big runs — including a 56-yard run by Bellefontaine’s Garrett Gross early in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to improve more on the running game and helping our team,” Sidney senior defensive back Josiah Hudgins said. “That’ll help us get more W’s. We’ve got to go out there and play hard.”
Opponents may have to resort to running the ball, because Sidney’s defense hasn’t allowed much through the air. Bellefontaine’s Grant Smith was 2 for 5 against Sidney for 2 yards and had two interceptions, including a pick-six by Hudgins in the first quarter.
“I knew he was going to throw it, so I just read it right, picked it off and scored,” Hudgins said.
Before taking over at Belmont in 2014, White coached at Thurgood Marshall and its predecessor Colonel White. No matter where he’s been, his special wing-T has proved a challenge for opponents — including in 2012, when Thurgood Marshall finished 12-2 and advanced to a state semifinal.
“With the special stuff they run, they’re going to make us look really silly sometimes, just like last year,” Doenges said. “It’s just a matter of how we’re going to weather the storm.”
The Yellow Jackets beat Belmont 46-33 in a regional quarterfinal playoff game last season. Belmont entered the game 9-0 and had allowed just nine points over the course of regular season.
“They’re a really good, strong, physical running team,” Hudgins said. “Their line is always good every year. It should be a great game. They’re running the same exact stuff as last year, so our defense has to come out and play.”
The Bison (0-2) are off to a tougher start this year. They lost 43-8 at Troy in Week 1 and gave up 297 yards while managing only 86.
They had a better showing in Dayton last Friday against Middletown Fenwick but lost 30-16. Belmont allowed 322 yards of offense against Fenwick, 241 of which came in the air on eight passes.
“It’s hard to get a good read on them because they’ve played two really good opponents,” Doenges said. “… They definitely still have some athletes there. I don’t know if (Belmont) is as good as they were last year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get there. They definitely have some guys that are going to give us some trouble with their size, strength and athleticism.”
Jayzon Wagner has led the Bison on offense in both games. Wagner, a senior running back, ran for 46 yards against Troy on 10 carries and 172 yards on 19 carries against Fenwick. He scored both the team’s touchdowns against the Falcons, while junior quarterback Rian Reaves scored the team’s TD against Troy.
Reaves did not attempt a pass against Troy and was 0 for 6 against Fenwick.
“It’s just not something they do,” Doenges said of Belmont’s passing. “They do it from time to time, and when they do it, the quarterback is an athletic kid and a threat to run. What they do is foot-to-foot splits and try to get as many bodies in one spot and move forward and try to wear you down a little bit.”
Doenges said Sidney having recent experience against Belmont’s offense has helped in preparations this week. That familiarity has helped expedite things in practice — which is especially welcome since it’s been one of the hottest weeks of the year.
“The fact that a lot of our linebackers and some of our strong safeties saw it last year will be to our advantage a little bit,” Doenges said. “In the playoff game last year, it took us a little while to get a feel for it.”
Unlike Belmont, Sidney’s offense looks a good bit different from last season — and a good bit different from Week 1.
The Yellow Jackets swapped starting junior quarterback Ryan Dunham and backup freshman QB EJ Davis throughout the game. The system worked well, as Sidney racked up over 400 yards of offense.
Dunham completed 10 of 12 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown, while Davis (who didn’t play Week 1) completed 1 of 2 passes for 50 yards and ran for 96 yards on 10 carries.
Sidney had 192 yards of offense against St. Marys and turned the ball over five times. The Yellow Jackets had no turnovers against Bellefontaine.
“I thought our offensive line improved the most, along with Ryan,” Doenges said. “Our offensive line set a good tone. Our perimeter blocking with our receivers probably wasn’t as good as Week 1, and that’s something hopefully we’ve corrected. But I was really, really happy with both of our quarterbacks and with our offensive line.
Stats note: Sidney’s official statistics from last Thursday’s game have been amended to reflect correct yardage from senior running back Caleb Harris’ last run. Harris officially finished with 120 rushing yards on 17 carries, and the Yellow Jackets finished with 433 total yards.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.