Sidney had higher hopes for the 2018 season than finishing 5-5.
But the senior class was happy to prove naysayers who predicted the program was going to fall off and not be competitive without its superstars from 2017 wrong.
Sidney went 10-2 in 2017 and earned its second playoff berth in program history. But the squad lost all-time leading rusher Isaiah Bowser to graduation and star quarterback Andre Gordon, who transferred to Huntington Prep at the beginning of the school year (though he re-enrolled at Sidney in November).
They also lost 17 other letterwinners from the 2017 squad and had a lot of holes to fill.
That didn’t stop the Yellow Jackets from having their third .500 or better season in four years. The senior class was happy to be the first class since the class of 1991 to leave that legacy.
Sidney showed promise in preseason but struggled in Week 1 at St. Marys. The Yellow Jackets played the Roughriders close early but gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half and trailed 21-7 at halftime. St. Marys then added two more TDs in the second half to run away with a four-touchdown win.
Sidney had five turnovers against the Roughriders, which would prove to be a problem in all of the games the team lost.
The Yellow Jackets bounced back in Week 2 by beating Bellefontaine 31-28 on a Thursday night game that was broadcast as a part of Fox 45’s “Thursday Night Lights.”
It was an exciting back-and-forth game. Bellefontaine took a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter but Caleb Harris scored on a 4-yard run with 5:41 left, and the Yellow Jackets held on from three.
Harris, a senior, ran for 120 yards in the victory while junior starting quarterback Ryan Dunham completed 10-of-12 passes for 138 yards with one touchdown, which was a 50-yard pass to junior Lathan Jones.
Freshman EJ Davis had his biggest game of the season while splitting time with Dunham at quarterback. He completed one pass for 50 yards and ran for 96 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries.
The Yellow Jackets had 433 yards of offense and didn’t have any turnovers against Bellefontaine. They had one the following week when they traveled to Welcome Stadium in Dayton to face Belmont — but it didn’t stop them from earning one of their biggest wins of the year.
Sidney took a 17-6 lead by halftime and ran away in the second half to a 38-6 win over the Bison. Dunham threw for 235 yards and three TDs in the win while Harris ran for 55 yards and one TD and freshman Quamir “Philly” Brown ran for 70 yards and one touchdown.
Seniors Ratez Roberts and Josiah Hudgins and junior Darren Taborn each caught one touchdown pass against Belmont. Taborn also had an interception on defense.
Sidney struggled against perennial power Trotwood-Madison in a Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game at home in Week 4. The Rams took advantage of seven turnovers and cruised to a 41-7 victory.
The Yellow Jackets bounced back in Week 5, though, with a 40-12 victory at Fairborn in GWOC crossover action. They built a 27-6 lead by halftime and had 372 yards of offense in the win.
Dunham threw for 125 yards and one touchdown while Davis completed one pass, which was a 27-yard touchdown throw to Hudgins. Harris ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The team returned home to start GWOC American North play in Week 6 and suffered its most heartbreaking loss of the year.
Though the Yellow Jackets nearly mounted a late comeback, they lost 14-12 to archrival Piqua in a game where they missed one extra point and one field goal attempt. Harris filled in at placekicker in the game for normal starter Hallie Truesdale, who was battling with a nagging leg injury.
Dunham threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the loss while Harris ran for 104 yards. Taborn caught four passes for 98 yards.
Sidney again followed a loss with a victory by beating Tippecanoe 16-10 in Week 7 in Tipp City. The Yellow Jackets had 346 yards of offense in the win, with Dunham throwing for 181 and Harris running for 166. Seven players caught passes for Sidney in the victory, and Taborn intercepted three passes.
Sidney traveled to Troy in Week 8. The problem of turning the ball over against quality competition emerged again as the Yellow Jackets committed six turnovers in a 38-19 loss. Lathan Jones had a big night at receiver as he caught five passes for 135 yards. Roberts caught two touchdown passes.
The Yellow Jackets fell to 4-5 overall and 1-3 in conference play the following week when Vandalia-Butler earned a 27-9 victory in Sidney. The Jackets committed four turnovers in the loss, one of which the Aviators returned 59 yards for a touchdown. Harris ran for 108 yards and one touchdown in the loss.
Sidney finished the year on a positive note by dismantling Greenville 56-21 to capture the Little Brown Jug for the third consecutive season. The Yellow Jackets took a 35-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and forced the Green Wave to commit four turnovers, including an interception Taborn returned for a touchdown. Taborn also ran a kickoff return 81 yards for a touchdown in the win.
Sidney coach Adam Doenges credited the seniors after the Greenville victory.
“This group has worked extremely hard and has elevated this program,” Doenges said. “I’m glad we can send them out on a good note.”
Harris finished the season with 1,083 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while Dunham finished with 1,480 passing yards. Both ranked fifth in the 20-team GWOC in both categories, while Taborn tied for first among conference players with five interceptions.
Harris, Hudgins, Roberts, Taborn, Christian Rettterer and Dylan Vanderpool were named first team all-GWOC American League after the season while Jones, Ryan Cagle and Bryon Jones, who led the squad with 68 tackles, were named second team.
Harris was named first team all-Southwest district in Division II and was also named second team all-Ohio. Dean, Taborn and Roberts also were named first team all-district.
Sidney opens the 2019 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.