SIDNEY — A weird week for Sidney’s football squad was capped off by an even weirder game on Friday night.
If weirdness keeps producing the results of Friday, though, the Yellow Jackets may learn to like it.
After two weeks of struggling to stop rushing opponents, Sidney contained Dayton Belmont enough produce a shutout in a 7-0 victory at Sidney Memorial Stadium. The Yellow Jackets (1-2) had allowed 25 and 42 points, respectively, in close losses to St. Marys and Bellefontaine the previous two weeks.
The game featured two lengthy lightning delays in the first half and took nearly four hours to complete despite the vast majority of plays being runs. There were also several delays during the game for cramping, clock and equipment issues — and 17 penalties.
“We had to keep our minds straight and keep our heads straight,” Sidney senior defensive back Darren Taborn said.
Sidney sophomore running back E.J. Davis scored the game’s lone touchdown on a 25-yard pass reception with 7:14 left in the third quarter.
Sidney faced a fourth-down-and-four on the opening drive of the second half at Belmont’s 25-yard line when Davis took a short pass from senior quarterback Ryan Dunhman, ran toward the visitor’s sideline and dodged Belmont tacklers on his way to the end zone.
The touchdown was redemption for Davis, who fumbled on what looked to be a for-sure touchdown run early in the second quarter.
“That’s one of the things you’re going to do as a sophomore. You’re going to have those lumps,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “You just have to keep battling back, and he did. The nice thing was his teammates were right there to support him after that.
“That’s the nice thing about our team. We’ve gotten pretty close the last few weeks, and tonight got us a little closer.”
Davis finished with 139 rushing yards on 18 carries and caught two passes for 33 yards. He’s in his first year playing the position full-time and has amassed 453 rushing yards in three games.
He’s quickly made opponents notice both his strength and speed. He’s darted by defenders and has dragged tacklers several yards to extend plays.
“He’s fun,” Doenges said. “It’s going to be a fun next couple of years with him, because he’s just a competitor. He comes off the sideline and goes on for a kickoff or something, and I ask him if he’s good to keep playing, and he just looks at me like I’m crazy or something and says ‘Why would I come out?’”
Davis also played at linebacker in the game and finished with one tackle.
“He battled some injuries this week and some weird things that happened with him. He’s a tough-nosed kid, and I’m glad he’s on our side,” Doenges said.
It was the first game of the season for Taborn, who sprained an MCL in a scrimmage against Chaminade-Julienne on Aug. 22.
Taborn, who is a four-year varsity player and three-year starter, finished with 8.5 tackles and 65 all-purpose yards.
“It feels great to be back,” Taborn said. “I love it. I love battling with this team. That’s what we do. We battle each week and make improvements, because we have a great defensive coordinator (Kyle Coleman) and he pushes us hard every day of the week.”
Taborn made his presence known on defense in the first half with on a tackle when he slammed a Belmont running back to the ground for a loss.
“It was a big relief,” Taborn said. “It boosted my confidence a lot.”
Sidney senior Lathan Jones played for the first time on Friday since suffering a leg injury in the second half of a season opener against St. Marys. He caught two passes for 20 yards and had three tackles.
Doenges said having the pair back was crucial, especially since the team was without starting defensive back Jaron Kelly and backup linebacker Jyhston Malveaux.
“When you get two seniors back on both sides of the ball that hardly don’t come out, it makes a huge difference,” Doenges said. “We’re still not full strength, but this as the best we’ve been all season.”
When the game wasn’t delayed, it went fast, as both the Yellow Jackets and Bison largely stuck to the ground.
The Bison churned out 291 of their 293 offensive yards while running out of their unique wing-T formation. That’s still a bit more than Doenges would like, but he was happy Sidney was able to stop Belmont repeatedly in crucial situations.
The Bison converted 7-of-15 third-down attempts and two-of-four fourth-down attempts.
“We had to have good reads,” Taborn said. “If our reads weren’t there and we missed too many tackles, we would have lost, but we did our stuff.”
The victory capped off what Doenges described as a weird week that was filled with fluctuating temperatures in practice and players dealing with illness and injuries.
“We were never full strength at any practice with all the things that happened during the week, and once we got close to Friday, things started shaking out a little bit,” Doenges said.
“We had a lot of guys that just battled hard tonight, and I’m just really proud of those guys, with all the weird things that happened this week and the weird things that happened tonight. It wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination on either side a clean game. It was just an ugly game, but it’s nice to be able to win by a touchdown instead of lose by a touchdown.”
The Yellow Jackets will open Miami Valley League play next week when they host archrival Piqua at Sidney Memorial Stadium. It’ll be the squad’s first game in the newly reformed MVL.
The Indians won 14-12 last season in Sidney to claim the team’s traveling trophy: the Battered Helmet.
“It’d be great,” Taborn said of beating Piqua. “It’s my senior year, and I want to go out with the Battered Helmet.”
Piqua beat Stebbins 27-10 on Thursday in a televised game. Head coach Bill Nees and two Piqua assistants were on hand to scout the Yellow Jackets on Friday.
“That Helmet has been away from us for a year, and our kids right away turned their attention to it,” Doenges said. “First thing out of the huddle we said: ‘It’s Piqua week.’”
The Bison also recovered a fumble in the second half aside from one in the first half but consistently stalled in Sidney territory. The squad had 13 penalties during the game and had a touchdown run and punt return for a touchdown called back for holding penalties in the second half.
Sidney finished with 317 yards of offense. Dunham completed 4-of-11 passes for 72 yards. The team ran for 245 yards on 28 carries.
After Belmont ran four plays on the first drive, the game was delayed for over 30 minutes in the first quarter due to lightning.
The Bison converted a fourth-down-and-four to get to Sidney’s 22-yard line but were moved backwards after a series of penalties and eventually turned the ball over on downs at the 29.
Sidney quickly drove down after a 29-yard run by Davis and a 20-yard run by Quamir “Philly” Brown. Davis broke through the line on a long run and had open field ahead of him to the end zone but fumbled, and Belmont recovered at the 4 with about two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bison drove down but failed to convert a fourth down with nine minutes left, and Sidney took over at its 20. The Yellow Jackets were preparing to punt on a fourth-and-29 from their own 35 with 4:11 left in the second when more lightning was spotted.
After the game was delayed for about an hour, Sidney finally punted. Belmont was forced to punt, and the Yellow Jackets moved to the Bison’s 29 after a 44-yard pass from Dunham to Taborn.
Hallie Truesdale missed a 39-yard field goal as time expired, and the teams went back to the locker room at halftime in a scoreless tie.
Sidney scored on the first drive of the second half and held on from there. Belmont never got into the red zone.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.