SIDNEY — Sidney’s first football game is still well over two months away, but the Yellow Jackets have already had their first day on the field.
The Yellow Jackets took to the turf at Sidney Memorial Stadium for three hours on Wednesday morning for the first of 10 camp days the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows teams to utilize before preseason practice starts on Aug. 1.
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 5-5 season and have finished .500 or better three of the last four years. That’s a trend they’ll look to continue this year, though they’ll be without 15 seniors from a year ago.
Though they’re short on letterwinners, there’s much returning experience and a good mix of returnees in skill positions and on the lines.
“This may be the least amount of returning lettermen I’ve had, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because we had so many seniors last year and our juniors were playing JV,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We’re just trying to get a feel right now, move some parts around a little bit, and help those guys get some more experience.”
The OHSAA allows coaches to supervise 10 days of practice in the summer. Except for the week of Independence Day, Sidney will spend at least one day a week on the field before two-a-days.
The squad will be focusing on football for a while. Due to the reconfiguration Sidney City Schools is undergoing this summer, the first day of classes won’t be held until after Labor Day.
That gives the team and all the school’s sports squads plenty of time to focus on athletic endeavors — but presented a problem Doenges and the coaching staff hadn’t previously dealt with when deciding summer camp plans.
“That’s a really long summer, and we want to keep things fresh,” Doenges, who is entering his ninth season, said. “We normally don’t do any camp days until the second week of July, and that means just six weeks of our kids just lifting in the summer. So to stretch things out a little bit and looking to keep things more fresh this year, we went to a different format.”
Instead of lumping the camp days together in a stretch of a couple of weeks, they’re being spread out from now until the start of two-a-days.
Sidney will use another day for practice next Wednesday and on July 10. The following two weeks, the team will use two days per week: one day for practice, and another for 7-on-7 passing camps. Sidney will host Lehman Catholic, Anna and Covington in a passing camp on July 18 and West Liberty-Salem and Ponitz on July 25.
The team will use their last three camp days starting on July 29 in the three days leading up to the start of preseason practice.
“Every Wednesday is pretty much a camp day,” Doenges said. “We’re doing field work and camp to break things up during the week, keep our summer a little more fresh.”
The Yellow Jackets have about 90 players in the program right now, and Doenges said there’s been strong turnout for weightlifting and camp days.
“You’ve always got a few kids missing each day from vacations and stuff, and a couple of kids not getting up to get here for the 7 a.m. liftings, but for the most part, day-in and day-out, we’ve got between 75 and 80 kids here,” Doenges said.
The team looks to be anchored this season by a strong group of seniors, 17 of which joined Doenges and most of the coaching staff for a senior trip earlier this month. The group toured Paul Brown Stadium and then went to Scene 75 in Cincinnati.
“It’s always good to get those seniors out for a day and kind of start bonding with the coaching staff,” Doenges said. “It was a good day, and we had some fun and learned a little bit about each other also.
“On any good football team, it’s your head coach and your assistant coaches, and you’re seniors have got to be right there, too. I stress even more now that your senior linemen have got to be the best players on the field and have to be your hardest workers. They’ve got to be the ones setting the tone.”
Sidney will open the season on Aug. 30 against St. Marys at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.