SIDNEY — What looked to be a potentially blown game turned into what Sidney’s football team hopes to be a spark to improvement in the second half of the season.
Fairborn scored 14 points in the second half to tie it up late, but E.J. Davis scored on a 48-yard hook-and-lateral to give the Yellow Jackets a 24-17 victory in a Miami Valley League game on Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Fairborn tied it 17-17 in the final minute, but the Yellow Jackets didn’t let it go to overtime.
After Davis, a sophomore, gained eight yards on a run, junior backup quarterback Cedric Johnson threw a long pass to Lathan Jones at about the 40-yard line. Jones then lateraled to Davis, who raced up the home sideline and dove into the end zone with 9.5 seconds left.
“We practice that every week probably three or four times and we’ve had it in our back pocket,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We just have to find the right time. It wasn’t the prettiest throw, but I give Lathan a lot of credit. He’s got a little injury on his hands, and he hasn’t been catching real well this week, but he went up, picked that sucker out of the air and made a real athletic move to get it to E.J.
“I give (offensive coordinator Frank) Crea a lot of credit. I walked over to him before that and said, ‘Don’t forget we’ve got a hitch and ladder,’ and he said, ‘It just went in.’”
Jones, who had two solo tackles on defense, said both his thumbs are bruised. But that didn’t bother him on the game’s definitive play.
“I knew I had to catch the ball and get give my man Ernie (Davis) the little pitch, and it worked out perfectly luckily,” Jones said.
Darren Taborn intercepted a pass on the final play of the game to end it. He also had an interception on Fairborn’s second drive of the game, which was a first for the season for both the Skyhawks and Taborn.
Fairborn was the first opponent with a balanced offensive attack Sidney (2-4, 1-2 MVL) has faced this season; the previous five were all run-oriented. Fairborn passers were 13 for 26 for 89 yards.
“When we were going over our scouting report this, our corners with (Taborn), Cam Vordemark and Lathan’s eyes were getting real big,” Doenges said. “They’re physical kids and they love to help support the run, but they want to see the ball in the air and get some opportunities. It was nice for Darren and those guys to get that chance go up and play some balls a little bit.”
Davis missed last week’s game at Xenia. He suffered a leg injury early in the third quarter against Piqua two weeks ago.
Davis had 188 rushing yards and one TD on 26 carries and caught two passes for 56 yards, including his lateral TD reception.
“It’s great when he have everyone healthy,” Jones, a senior, said. “E.J.’s a big player and he does big things for us. I hope he can keep that up.”
After getting shut out the last two weeks, the Yellow Jackets got going early on Friday. They had 216 yards of offense in the first half alone — more than they had the last two weeks combined against Piqua and Xenia. They finished with 367 yards.
“This is a big ‘W,’” Jones said. “We’ve had a lot of struggles but we came together and ended up with the ‘W.’ …We’ve got more winnable games coming up.”
Doenges hopes the squad will be able to carry momentum from the win into the next four weeks.
“I’m proud of the guys for continuing to work and fight,” Doenges said. “… We made (Fairborn) work for everything. We had some adversity tonight, and the kids continued to battle for it. I’m really proud of them.”
“… Both coordinators, Coach Crea and (defensive coordinator) Kyle Coleman, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done the last few weeks. We just talked to the kids about the fact that we’ve had a lot of weird injuries and a lot of other weird things that have happened to us. I’m proud of the kids for battling through that.”
Sidney led 17-3 at halftime and was able to move in the second half but couldn’t score until late. Fairborn, which was without several starters due to injuries, got going on offense in the second half after struggling in the first half.
Fairborn (2-4, 1-3) initially failed to get a first down on the first drive of the third quarter, but Sidney was charged with a roughing the kicker penalty on a punt, and the Skyhawks got the ball near midfield. They drove to Sidney’s 6-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
The Yellow Jackets drove to Fairborn’s 37 on the next drive but turned the ball over on downs with about a minute left in the third quarter.
Starting quarterback Ryan Dunham appeared to suffer an injury on the last play of the drive after throwing the ball away. Johnson finished the game, and Doenges said he played well.
“Ced answered the call,” Doenges said. “… He’s always a calm, relaxed him. So all the lights, the fans, the bands, the cheering, that doesn’t faze him. He did a nice job going in; the linemen and receivers have a lot of confidence in him. He’s been getting reps in practice and was ready. I’m really proud of him.”
The Skyhawks followed with a lengthy drive and scored on a 5-yard run by Cam Hamilton with 9:05 left in the fourth, but a two-point conversion attempt was intercepted to keep Sidney’s lead at eight points.
Johnson took over under center and ran for a first down early in the Yellow Jackets’ next drive. The squad drove to Fairborn’s 37 but turned the ball over on downs with 4:09 left.
The Skyhawks followed with another lengthy drive to tie it up. Hunter Warner scored on a 2-yard run with 42.2 seconds left and Hamilton ran for the two-point conversion to tie it 17-17.
Sidney got going fast. The Yellow Jackets received the opening kickoff for the first time this season, and Taborn returned it to Sidney’s 45.
After a pass from Dunham to Quamir “Philly” Brown and two big runs moved the ball into the red zone, Davis scored on a 4-yard run with 8:02 left to put Sidney ahead 7-0.
“That was a little bit different for us,” Doenges said of starting with the ball. “I know the guys were excited to start with the ball and go down there and make a statement.”
Taborn intercepted a pass by Fairborn’s Garison Secrest at Sidney’s 24, and the squad then methodically drove down the field. After changing direction on a designed run, Dunham scored on a 7-yard run with 3:22 left to increase the lead to 14-0.
The Skyhawks turned the ball over on downs to end the next drive at Sidney’s 33. The Yellow Jackets followed with another long drive and scored on a 27-yard field goal by Hallie Truesdale with 4:16 left in second to increase the lead to 17-0.
The snap on the field goal was high, but Dunham, the holder, was able to get the ball down in time for Truesdale.
“Dunham did a phenomenal job of pulling the ball from the top of his helmet, and Hallie did a good job of pausing for a moment mid-run as she’s coming to the ball,” Doenges said. “… She did a nice job of being able to power through and sneak it through there.”
It was Truesdale’s first field goal of the season. She missed her previous two attempts.
“We still had confidence in her,” Doenges said. “The operation wasn’t perfect like it normally is for those guys, but she was still able to get it through.”
Fairborn sustained its first drive of the half and scored on a 23-yard field goal by Aiden Johnson with 13 seconds left to cut the deficit to 14 points at halftime.
Dunham completed 7-of-12 passes for 74 yards while Johnson completed 2-of-3 for 56 yards. Brown led Sidney with four receptions for 28 yards.
Jaden Swiger, who ran for 94 yards against Xenia last week as the team’s starter, finished with six yards on Friday. He didn’t play in the second half after sustaining an injury.
Secrest completed all of Fairborn’s passes and threw both interceptions while Warner threw three incomplete passes. The Skyhawks had 278 yards of offense, 189 of which came on the ground. Warner led the team with 133 rushing yards on 25 carries.
“I give Fairborn a lot of credit,” Doenges said. “There’s a lot of fight in those kids. They’re beat up injury-wise too; it’s that time of year. That new coaching staff is doing a lot of nice things with those kids. This was a good game, and I’m glad this series is going to continue.”
Clay Carter led Sidney with 9.5 tackles while Ryan Cagle had eight.
The Yellow Jackets will return to Sidney Memorial Stadium next week for an MVL game against Troy.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.