SIDNEY — It’s a bit of a juggling act for Sidney’s coaching staff to choose between several talented receivers to throw to. The Yellow Jackets hope that’s the only area where juggling is an issue the rest of the season after too much juggling with the ball in player’s hands last Friday.
The Yellow Jackets will try to get back to putting their receivers in favorable positions this Friday against Fairborn. The Yellow Jackets (2-2) will travel to Fairborn’s Buschemeyer Field for their last Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game of the season.
Sidney (2-2) had 188 and 235 passing yards, respectively, in wins over Bellefontaine and Belmont in Weeks 2 and 3. Much of that yardage came by receivers working their way through opponent’s secondaries after catches.
In Week 1 and 4 losses to St. Marys and Trotwood, the Yellow Jackets had 10 interceptions. Sidney had seven total turnovers in last Friday’s 41-7 loss to the Rams, and coach Adam Doenges said that’s been an emphasis in practice this week.
“The nature of the game is to point the finger at the quarterback, but it’s not all on him,” Doenges said of last week’s offensive struggles. “Everyone has to come together and look at it. Obviously whether it’s Ryan (Dunham) or EJ (Davis) in there (at quarterback), they’ve certainly got to play better.
“But it wasn’t all their fault. We pointed out to the receivers that we dropped two touchdown passes. We pointed to the lineman and their blocking percentage and how well they did. Everybody had things to work on after that; no one pitched a no-hitter in that one. It’s easy to point the finger at one person, but collectively, we’ve all got to get better.”
After committing five turnovers against the Roughriders in Week 1, Sidney had just one over the next two weeks. Sidney junior receiver Lathan Jones said he’s confident the offense will recoup this Friday like it was able to after the season opener.
“It was tough last week,” Jones said. “We didn’t get after it in practice and we kind of saw that as a turning point for us. We’re really getting after it now in practice. …I think (their defense) kind of surprised us last week but we’re fixing that up and will be ready to roll this week.”
Jones, who also plays a bit on defense, is second on the team in receptions (10) and receiving yards (141). He’s caught two touchdown passes, including a 26-yard TD in the third quarter last Friday. He played sparingly last season and had five receptions for 86 yards with two touchdowns.
“We knew he had talent last year, but we didn’t always see it during practice, and that’s typical if you’re a freshman or sophomore, the practice habits every day,” Doenges said of Jones. “… Lathan’s definitely gained that trust now. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason on gaining more strength, more speed and being better at catching.
“The other big thing for him is just his physicality. Last year, he was not a physical player. We didn’t even ask him to tackle anybody — he wasn’t physical even blocking. And that’s a new element to his game this year that he’s a physical blocking receiver, and we’re not afraid to put him at corner because he can make tackles.”
Eight players have caught passes this season for Sidney, and four have caught TD passes. Senior Ratez Roberts has a team-high 13 receptions for 174 yards, while Darren Taborn, Josiah Hudgins, Quamir “Philly” Brown and Caleb Harris have between three and seven receptions and 51 and 116 receiving yards.
Sidney will try to use that depth against the Skyhawks, which have allowed an average of 352 yards and 39.75 points per game. After facing predominantly running opponents the first three weeks, they surrendered a season-high 133 passing yards against Piqua last Friday.
“I think we can match up against them easy,” Jones said. “… It’s a privilege to share the ball. We just do what we have to do and let everyone get their turn.”
Fairborn enters Friday’s game 0-4 and is coming off its best performance of the season. The Skyhawks had a 14-8 lead late in the first half at Piqua last Friday but gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and lost 29-14. Fairborn lost its first three games by a combined score of 130-19.
“They played a very competitive game against Piqua and had some opportunities to win that game,” Doenges said. “It’s a team that’s got some playmakers. When you look at them, you’ll see kids that look very, very good in a football uniform. They also play very physical and have some kids that can make some plays in space. They have a nice, big, tall quarterback that can sling it and make some plays.”
Fairborn averages 184 yards of offense per game.
Junior quarterback Garison Secrest has completed 53-of-104 passes for 503 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Gage Barron has caught 15 passes for 137 yards while Dwight Lewis has caught 10 passes for 105 yards.
Sophomore running back Hunter Warner has rushed for 174 yards and three TDs on 45 carries. He plays at linebacker on defense and has a team-high 38.5 tackles.
“These are hard-nosed kids,” Doenges said. “Unfortunately the wins haven’t been coming for them, but it’s right there for them. It’s there Homecoming, and we’re going into hostile territory, so we have to be ready.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.