FAIRBORN — Sidney players heard talk throughout preseason of a major drop off following a 10-2 campaign last year. If there were any thoughts of such steep decline left among casual observers, the Yellow Jackets hope they erased them on Friday.
Sidney scored the first three touchdowns in a Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game on Friday to spark a 40-12 victory over Fairborn at Buschemeyer Field.
Friday’s win improved Sidney to 3-2 — more wins than some predicted the team would get all season — and gives the team momentum heading into GWOC American Division play. The Yellow Jackets begin divisional play next Friday at home against archrival Piqua.
“Our goal was to be 4-1 or 5-0 at this point, but we like where we’re going,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We’re improving each week, and we’re playing for a conference title. It’s going to be tough, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re aiming for it and for the Battered Helmet and Homecoming win next week.”
After offensive struggles last week against Trotwood-Madison — which beat Piqua 48-13 on Friday — the Yellow Jackets got back in the air Friday while playing at a faster pace.
Junior quarterback Ryan Dunham completed 13-of-27 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown and one interception, while freshman EJ Davis completed his only pass attempt of the night, which was a 27-yard touchdown to Josiah Hudgins.
Senior running back Caleb Harris ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Sidney finished with 372 total yards of offense and had 21 first downs.
The fast tempo Sidney played with overwhelmed Fairborn at times, including late in the first half. The Yellow Jackets scored three touchdowns in the last five minutes, which turned a 7-0 lead into a 27-6 lead.
“We wanted to get out to a quick start and we wanted to play fast,” Doenges said. “It’s something we feel like we can take advantage of. We’ve been working at it the last couple of weeks and just haven’t done it in a game. We want that to be a part of our games the last five games and play with some tempo.”
Hudgins had his biggest receiving night of the year as he caught two passes, both touchdowns, and finished with 45 receiving yards. His second touchdown came right before halftime on an 18-yard pass from Dunham. He also had 3.5 tackles.
“I can be a different guy every week as far as making big plays (on offense), and the guys know that,” Doenges said. “Everyone wants the football, and we’ve only got one. We’ve got seven, eight, nine guys that want it, but they’re starting to buy in. They do their job, someone’s going to get a good look. It might be Josiah this week, it might be someone else next week.
“Josiah did a nice job tonight. He got open, got the ball and did his job when his number was called.”
Fairborn gained 366 yards of offense, but the Yellow Jackets were able prevent many big plays and forced four turnovers. Sidney intercepted three passes and recovered one fumble.
“This was great,” senior linebacker Christian Retterer said of the team’s defensive performance. “We’ve worked hard all week in practice, and it showed today … We just had to do our job and play hard.”
Retterer intercepted one pass which he returned 33 yards and also recovered a fumble.
“(Fairborn) was hurting us on seam routes and it’s something we’re going to have to get better at, but it was nice to see Christian see one develop there and step in front of it,” Doenges said. “He’s a great kid, a hard-working kid. I’m proud of him and the whole linebacking crew. We’ve got five kids we rotate in those three sports, and I’m proud of them all.”
Sidney (3-2) led 27-6 at halftime. Fairborn scored on the first drive of the second half when quarterback Garison Secrest threw a dart through traffic along the visitor’s sidelines 9 yards into the end zone to Richard Peterson for a touchdown. The Skyhawks missed a two-point conversion try and trailed 27-12 with 7:09 left.
The Yellow Jackets scored on the next drive.
Shortly after Retterer returned the kickoff to Fairborn’s 29-yard line, Darren Taborn took a short pass toward the home sideline, reversed direction, and ran into the end zone along the visitor’s sideline for a 5-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, but Sidney increased its lead to 33-12 with 5:54 left in the third.
The teams traded interceptions on the next two drives, and Sidney turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth. Fairborn (0-5) later turned the ball over on downs, and Harris scored a 16-yard touchdown run with 6:19 left in the fourth to boost Sidney’s lead to 28 points after an extra point from Hallie Truesdale.
Harris scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:47 left in the first quarter to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead. Sidney fumbled on its next drive, but Fairborn turned the ball over on downs on the Yellow Jackets’ 21.
After receptions by Taborn and Ratez Roberts and a run by Harris moved the ball to Fairborn’s 43, Dunham ran for a first down to the 27.
Davis came in at quarterback for the first time in the game on the next play and threw a short pass to Hudgins, who maneuvered along the home sideline for a touchdown with 4:24 left in the second quarter.
Sidney then recovered an onside kick at its own 49 and scored two plays later when Quamir “Philly” Brown picked up a lateral pass off the ground and ran around and through defenders 51 yards for a touchdown to give Sidney a 21-0 lead.
Fairborn scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Garison Secrest to OJ Person with 48.4 seconds left in the second to pull within 21-6 after a missed extra point. The Yellow Jackets got the points back before halftime, though.
Sidney started its next drive on its own 46, but a 20-yard run and 16-yard pass reception by Harris moved the ball to the 18. Dunham then threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Hudgins, which put Sidney up 27-6 after a missed extra point with 2.7 seconds left.
Sidney begins GWOC American North Division next Friday against the Indians.
“We’ve got to stay focused all week in practice and stay to it,” Retterer said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.