SIDNEY — One near-constant for St. Marys Memorial and Sidney’s football programs every year since 1983 has been playing each other in a season opener. The only thing more consistent has been the Roughriders’ offensive scheme.
One constant won’t last much longer.
Friday’s matchup between the Yellow Jackets and St. Marys will be the last for the foreseeable future. Sidney is beginning its first season in the Miami Valley League and will commence playing a nine-game league schedule next year. Bellefontaine will remain as the team’s lone nonconference opponent.
“You always want to focus on yourself, but when you’ve been staring at a countdown clock that says ‘St. Marys’ for 300 days, it makes it hard to avoid, and this being the last game of the series makes it a little more special,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said.
“… We’re trying to put our best foot forward. It’s a series that hasn’t exactly been kind to us in the last 10, 20 years. There’d be nothing better than for us to come out with a win in the last game of the series.”
What isn’t changing much is St. Marys’ wing-T offense. Doenges, a 2001 St. Marys graduate, said it continues to work well.
“Not just their offense. You can turn on the film from 1975, from ’82, from ’92, to 2001, and it’s the same,” Doenges said. “It’s the same hard-nosed kids that take pride in being able to line up and get 3.5 yards per carry and take pride on physical, tough defense and not giving up big plays.
“On offense, defense and special teams, it’s just a fundamentally-sound football team.”
Like Sidney, St. Marys will be relying on newcomers this year.
The Roughriders lost nearly 20 players from last season’s 12-2 squad that advanced to a Division IV state semifinal. The squad is without five players who earned all-Ohio honors last year as well as quarterback Braeden Dunlap and leading rusher Sean Perry.
Senior Kurt Bubp and junior Dylan Trogdlon are expected to split time at quarterback. Seniors Ty Schlosser and Ty Howell are expected to be among the squad’s go-to runners.
“We have 13 lettermen back and they’re around that same number, but that’s usually pretty normal for them because they’re usually senior-dominated every year,” Doenges, who watched the Roughriders’ scrimmage at Bellefontaine on Friday, said. “From year-to-year, it’s new guys coming in and taking the place of the old guy.”
Most of the squad’s returnees are on defense. Among them is senior Blake Kanorr, who was named the Western Buckeye League and Northwest district lineman of the year last season.
“Of the 12 or 13 lettermen they’ve got back, they’re really, really good football players,” Doenges said. “They’re guys that were starters as sophomores or juniors.”
As the Roughriders showed against Sidney last year, they can do more than run out of their wing-T attack. Two of the squad’s five touchdowns came on passes.
The focus is still on containing the Roughriders’ running ability. St. Marys gained 240 yards on 62 carries (3.9 yards per carry) last season.
Doenges said it will be a big early test of the squad, which has struggled stopping rushing opponents the last two years. He said he liked the improvement he saw at defending rushing teams in scrimmages against the likes of Trenton Edgewood, Beavercreek and Clinton-Massie.
“That’s been our bugaboo on defense,” Doenges said. “The past three or four years, our pass defense has been pretty good, and we’ve been up towards the top of the (Greater Western Ohio Conference) in creating turnovers. We just give up too much yards on the ground, and we’ve got to keep adjusting and keep monitoring and figuring out what best suits us defensively.
“… We’ve got room to improve still, but I like where we’re at.”
Doenges said he was pleased with Sidney’s offense through most of its preseason preparation. The unit struggled at times in a scrimmage against Chaminade-Julienne last Thursday, and Doenges said the lessons learned were beneficial.
“I think we’ve done a nice job of transitioning (at offensive coordinator) to Coach (Frank) Crea,” Doenges said. “From the naked eye, a lot of the stuff we’re doing is the same as last year, though we probably will be using a little more tight end or two-back (looks).
“We’re still going to be shotgun, we’re still going to be quick screens, we’re still going to look to get the ball out of our quarterback’s hands fast. We like the size of our line and our running backs, and we’re hoping to use that again to complement our pass game.”
Except for 2007 and 2008, Sidney and St. Marys have played in Week 1 every season since 1983. The squads also played every year from 1963-73. The schools have played 66 times since they first met in 1900.
Sidney and Bellefontaine have played every year since 1919, save for seven seasons between 1974 and 1982. Sidney leads the 112-game series against Bellefontaine 60-43-9.
The Roughriders lead the series 36-27-3 and have won four out of the last five matchups, including a 35-7 victory last season in St. Marys.
Doenges said he hasn’t thought much about it being possibly the last time he faces his alma mater. He played for current St. Marys coach Doug Frye while in high school. Frye is in his second stint at the school; he coached for several seasons at Wapakoneta between stints.
“The program means a lot to me, and it’s always about the program, no matter who’s leading it,” Doenges, who has a 3-5 record against his alma mater, said. “… When you play for a guy like Doug Frye, you have a great amount of respect for him. I’ve played for him, he’s been a mentor to me when he was at Wapak, and when he went back to St. Marys, we kind of became enemies, so I’ve seen three different phases of him.
“… I just told our guys that though I love that program to death, there’s nothing more I’d like than to get this win and walk off that field. I’ll be happy with them as long as they come out on the field and play to the best of their ability, but we want this one.”
Friday’s game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.