SIDNEY — The first half of Sidney’s season was largely dominated by lopsided scores — whether on the winning or losing side.
The first two weeks of Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play have been nail biters. And for the Yellow Jackets to beat the division’s frontrunner on Friday, coach Adam Doenges said it will have be in similar fashion.
Sidney (4-3, 1-1 GWOC North) will travel to face Troy (6-1, 2-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Troy Memorial Stadium. The Trojans haven’t lost a league game since 2015 and have beaten their first two league opponents (Tippecanoe and Butler) by a combined 60 points.
Sidney lost 14-12 to Piqua two weeks ago and beat Tippecanoe 16-10 last week. Doenges said he’s been pleased with the Yellow Jackets’ ability to contain opposing offenses the last two weeks and said that must continue in order to have success against Troy.
“We haven’t been in too many low-scoring close games the last few years,” Doenges said. “I think that was a little frustrating for our kids against Piqua because few of those kids have been in that situation before. I think they did a great job last week of realizing, ‘Hey, maybe (Tippecanoe is) just doing some good stuff defensively.’
“It doesn’t mean we weren’t doing a lot of good things on offense, it just means that we weren’t finishing some drives. A lot of that goes to what Piqua and Tipp were able to do. We anticipate for us to be in this game Friday, we’re going to have to have a similar-type game.”
Troy’s lone loss was a 31-14 defeat by Miamisburg (6-1) in Week 5. The Trojans’ only other close game was a 21-14 win over Xenia in Week 2 — their other five wins have come by margins of at least 22 points, including a 25-0 win at Vandalia-Butler last Friday.
Troy, which has won the last two North titles after finishing last in the division in 2015, ranks second in the 20-team GWOC with an average of 380 yards and 34.7 points per game. The Trojans average 220 rushing yards and 160 passing yards per game.
“They’re similar in that they do a lot of run-pass option,” Doenges said. “They probably do it a little bit more than what we do. When you’re facing a wing-T team, there’s not so much of the run-pass option stuff, but you still have to stay disciplined because of all the movement and sleight of hand and all that stuff.
“When you start playing a team that’s a run-pass option team, if one guy tries to overdo their job, they’re going to take advantage of it by pulling the ball out and throwing it or vice versa. They only difference now is that a mistake can turn into a 75-yard run like a (Jaydon) Culp-Bishop can do.”
Culp-Bishop, a senior running back, has rushed for a GWOC-best 1,203 yards and 19 touchdowns on 141 carries. He averages 8.5 yards per carry.
Culp-Bishop ran for 229 yards in Troy’s 48-21 win over Sidney last year — including a 99-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He also caught two passes for 48 yards.
“We’ve been showing kids all week what he can do,” Doenges said. “It’s going to take away some of our angles, because he’s going to be the fastest back we play all year. There’s no doubt about. He’s one of the best backs in our league, this side of Ohio and maybe all of Ohio. I don’t like staying stuff like that since I don’t watch all 700 schools in Ohio, but I can’t imagine there’s many backs in the state as talented as him.
“He’s come a long way since his sophomore year and even since the beginning of his junior year. You can see it on the film, the maturation process of him becoming a better running back and being able to drop a shoulder and move forward and get a couple of more yards. He’s more physical at the beginning of last year.”
Troy quarterback Brayden Siler has completed 73-of-110 passes for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
Tight end Spencer Klopfenstein, who is drawing some Division I collegiate interest, leads the team with 20 receptions for 293 yards and has caught one touchdown. Three-year starter Shane Shoop has caught 11 passes for 210 yards with four touchdowns.
Six players have seven catches or more this year, and all six have had receptions over 30 yards. Four of the players have had receptions over 50 yards.
“There’s a lot of big-play potential from that offense, not just from (Culp-Bishop),” Doenges said. “… They do a nice job of spreading the ball around. Once again, I don’t think they try to target guys. They’ll game plan to try to find our weaknesses. We’ve got to do our best and play our game and not try to do anybody else’s job. I think we’ve done a good job the last few weeks of doing your job and trusting the guy next to you to do his.”
Doenges said the Trojans should be a good test for Sidney’s defensive backs, which have help account for the team’s nine interceptions this year. Sidney is tied for second in the GWOC in interceptions and has also recovered seven fumbles.
Sidney’s defense has allowed an average of 309 yards and 15 points per game.
“We’ve gotten better,” Doenges said of Sidney’s defense. “I think particularly on the defensive line we’ve gotten better. The past couple of years, our defensive lineman have tried to do too much and chase tackles. If you watch a team like Troy, their defensive lineman do an incredible job of just occupying bodies and letting those linebackers run around and make tackles. Our kids are doing a better job of that.”
Sidney senior defensive lineman Braydon Dean has helped lead the unit’s improvement. Dean leads the team with 51 tackles and has recorded two sacks.
“With some of the schemes people are running against us, he’s still doing his job and still getting to the ball,” Doenges said. “He’s not letting offensive line guys run past him and being selfish and taking himself out of position. He’s unselfish and is doing a really good job on that side of the ball.”
Troy’s defense has allowed a conference low in yards (185.4) per game and has allowed 9.4 points per game. The Trojans have recorded 15 sacks.
“They were really good defensively last year,” Doenges said. “We thought we had some things we could take advantage of and had a little bit of success at it …but this year, I think they’ve closed some of those gaps. I think they’re better defensively. A lot of that comes down to their secondary being better.”
Senior linebacker Sam Jackson, who is a three-year starter, leads the team with 47 tackles and five sacks. He’s also recovered two fumbles.
Doenges said he considers Jackson to be the North Division’s frontrunner for defensive player of the year.
“Sam Jackson has been a little bit more of a strong safety, but they’ve brought him up to the line this year,” Doenges said. “That can be a good thing because you can anticipate where he’s going to be a little bit more, but it can also be a bad thing because he can basically take away one half of the running game. We’re going to have try to do some things and run at him, but he’s so good, he can almost take away that half of the field.”
While teams have struggled to move the ball consistently against Troy, Doenges said he’s confident the Yellow Jackets can move enough to win. Sidney averages 325.3 yards and 21.6 points per game.
Like Troy, Sidney has balance on offense. Junior quarterback Ryan Dunham has completed 94-of-166 passes for 1,089 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions and senior running back Caleb Harris has rushed for 769 yards and four TDs on 110 carries. Six receivers have eight or more receptions, and all have had catches for 30 or more yards.
The only two games Sidney’s offense has struggled were a 35-7 Week 1 loss to St. Marys and a 41-7 Week 4 loss to Trotwood. The Yellow Jackets had 13 combined turnovers in those games and have had just three in their other five. They didn’t turn the ball over at all against Piqua or Tippecanoe.
“That’s going to be big,” Doenges said of protecting the ball against Troy. “… We’ve done a lot better job the last two weeks of taking care of the ball, not making bad throws, not having the ball tipped in the air and picked off. We’re going to have to continue to do that to put ourselves in the best possible position to score some points.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.