SIDNEY — As much as sophomores are making waves on Sidney’s football squad, Piqua has a sophomore movement that’s on par or maybe even greater.
Not that it’s easy to notice anything sophomoric about the Indians.
“They’re very mature, and they’ve gotten remarkable better since we saw them in some of their scrimmages,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “I guess I’m pretty glad we’re playing them Week 4 instead of Week 8, 9, 10. That’s a pretty solid class for them, and as the years go on, they’re just going to get better and better.”
Sidney (1-2) will travel to Alexander Stadium to face archrival Piqua on Friday in its first conference game in the newly reformed Miami Valley League.
The Indians earned their first win last Thursday with a 27-10 MVL victory at Stebbins. The squad opened the season with a 28-7 loss to Chaminade-Julienne at Alexander Stadium and then lost 17-14 at Lima Senior the following week.
Sidney starts five sophomores and several others see significant time on the field. Among the sophomore starters is running back E.J. Davis, who leads the 10-team MVL with 477 rushing yards.
The Indians start six sophomores on defense and three on offense.
Doenges already had much familiarity with Piqua before starting to break down game film earlier this week. He saw one of the team’s scrimmages in person and also saw much of their victory over Stebbins, which was televised.
“When we got a chance to watch them in scrimmages, we went, ‘Okay, they’re not bad,’” Doenges said. “Now after watching them Thursday night and looking at the scout film, you can really see how those sophomores have progressed.”
Doenges is expecting a close game and hopes Sidney’s young players have learned from its first three games, which have all been decided by eight points or less.
One guarnteeded similarity is that Sidney will be facing a run-oriented opponent again. The Yellow Jackets had some struggles stopping opponents’ running attacks in a 25-22 season-opening loss to St. Marys and a 42-34 loss the following week at Bellefontaine.
They had more success last Friday when they beat Belmont 7-0. Aside from holding the Bison scoreless, they also held them to 292 yards of offense. Belmont was a combined 9 for 19 on third- and fourth-down conversion tries.
“We keep talking to our kids that we’re probably going to be in a slugfest every game for the rest of the year,” Doenges said. “I liked how we were able to handle last week. We were able to persevere through rain delays and penalties and all that kind of stuff and come out on top.
“Hopefully, the first few weeks continue to make us stronger. I really expect we’re going to be in another tough one this Friday.”
The Indians have amassed 390 rushing yards. Junior running back Caron Coleman leads the team with 192 rushing yards and one touchdown on 29 carries while sophomore Tanner Kemp has gained 131 rushing yards on 18 carries and scored a team-high 4 TDs.
Junior quarterback Blane Ouhl has completed 14-of-31 passes for 184 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Junior defensive lineman Jerell Lewis leads the squad in tackles (21) and sacks (four). He also has one fumble recovery. Coleman also plays at linebacker and has 18 tackles to his credit.
Piqua has surrendered an average of 331 yards per game and has created six turnovers in its three games.
“It’s pretty much your typical Bill Nees-coached team,” Doenges said, referring to Piqua’s coach, who is in his 28th season and was inducted into the state coaches association hall of fame earlier this year. “When you start looking for advantages or things you can take advantage of on special teams or the offensive or defensive side of the ball, you don’t start coming up with any gaps or holes that you can take advantage of.
“They just play good, solid fundamental football across the board. There’s not a lot of bells or whistles or things that happen; they just do everything fundamentally sound.”
Davis has been the main driving force this season for Sidney’s offense, which has averaged 299.3 yards and 21 points per game. Senior quarterback Ryan Dunham has completed 20-of-43 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Yellow Jackets — which struggled with turnovers last year — have had three turnovers this season, including two fumbles last week against Belmont.
“We were able to move the ball (against Belmont), but we just have to take care of the ball,” Doenges said. “It kind of got away from us a little bit, putting the ball on the ground twice. I thought we did a good job of establishing the line of scrimmage early, but we just weren’t able to sustain some drives.”
It’ll be the latest battle for the Battered Helmet, the traveling trophy that’s awarded to the winner each year. Piqua’s had the helmet since earning a 14-12 victory last season in Sidney.
Though there’s no reason for added incentive in the rivalry for Sidney, the squad’s senior class has an opportunity to be one of few to go out with a .500 or better record against Piqua. The Yellow Jackets won at Piqua in 2017, while the Indians won in Sidney in 2016.
The Indians lead the all-time series 78-39-6. Sidney has won just six times since 1979 but has beat the Indians twice since 2015.
Friday’s game will also likely determine which school will have a lead in the Piqua vs. Sidney all-sports trophy competition heading into winter sports.
It’s the third year for the trophy, which Sidney has won the last two years. The competition is determined by a points system that awards points based on head-to-head matchups between teams at the two schools. In sports like football where Piqua and Sidney teams play once a season, one point is awarded. In sports where teams play twice, .5 points are awarded.
Piqua has a 4-3.5 lead heading into Friday’s game.
The two schools are among 10 that left the Greater Western Ohio Conference to reform the MVL, which originally existed from 1926-1975. Both Sidney and Piqua were charter members of the original MVL.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.