SIDNEY — As an opponent, West Carrollton has been counted on as an easy victory for most Miami Valley League teams for a nearly a decade.
The Pirates won three league games as a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference between 2012 and 2018. Most of their losses weren’t close, even against other struggling teams — like in 2014, when they lost 55-28 to a 2-8 Sidney squad.
The program is looking to remake itself in the first season of the newly-reformed MVL. And if recent weeks are an indication, West Carrollton isn’t a pushover any more.
The improved West Carrollton squad will be Sidney’s next hurdle in its quest for a .500 record on Friday when the teams face off in an MVL Valley Division game at DOC Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets dropped to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in MVL play with a 19-7 loss to Troy last week but are still aiming to finish .500 or better for the third consecutive season. That would be a rare feat for Sidney, which hasn’t finished with records of .500 or better in three consecutive seasons since 1974-76.
“There’s still a lot to play for,” Sidney defensive coordinator Kyle Coleman said. “There’s obviously frustration from the players and the coaching staff from our record, and I don’t know that we’d want it any different. We expect our guys to want to win and talk about it on Friday nights, that you’ve got to want to win.
“Getting a .500 record for three consecutive years and playing for the seniors are both big deals. We’ve got a phenomenal senior class that’s done a lot for us on and off the field and will continue to do a lot for us these next few weeks.”
The start of the season was like most others in the last decade for the Pirates (1-6, 1-3), who are under the guidance of first-year coach and former Trotwood assistant Dion Black. They dropped to 0-4 with a 41-7 loss at Vandalia-Butler on Thursday in Week 4 and had been outscored 149-28 to that point.
After falling behind 51-13 at halftime to Tippecanoe in Week 5, the Pirates ditched their wing-T, run-oriented formation and spread it out. The results showed up in the fourth quarter as they added three late TDs to close the final gap to 57-34.
“We went and watched them at Vandalia, and they really struggled to move the ball,” Coleman said. “Watching the Tipp film …they switched their (current) quarterback from being in a running back or slot-type position and put him in the backfield and everybody else out wide, and they made it a pretty good game.
The offense kept rolling the next week and helped the squad upset Piqua 39-34 in DOC Stadium in West Carrollton. It snapped a three-game winning streak by the Indians, which hadn’t given up over 234 yards in any of those three wins.
West Carrollton accumulated 568 total yards of offense against Piqua, and sophomore quarterback Kamaury Cleveland had a hand in almost every single one. He threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 158 yards and three TDs.
“He’s a special kid at quarterback,” Coleman said. “We’ve been talking to our guys about his athletic ability and have been comparing him to some of the guys we’ve had here in the last couple of years, like an Andre Gordon or an Isaiah Bowser. I really think this kid’s got that type of potential.”
Cleveland has soared to the top of the MVL’s passing leaderboard in the last three weeks. He has 999 passing yards to his credit, over two thirds of which have come over the last three weeks. Senior receiver Austin Jones has caught 31 passes for 639 yards while sophomore receiver Cedric Anthony has caught 13 passes for 224 yards.
Coleman said Sidney’s defensive players — especially senior cornerbacks Lathan Jones and Darren Taborn — are looking forward to the challenge.
Sidney has faced few pass-oriented teams this year but had good success containing them last year. Fairborn, which Sidney beat 24-17 in Week 6, is the only opponent that has attempted more than 11 passes this year. The Skyhawks completed 13-of-26 passes for 89 yards with no touchdowns. Taborn intercepted two passes in the game.
“Darren likes to play the run and is a physical kid and likes to come down and hit, but you play that position for a reason,” Coleman said. “You want to get action, you want the ball to come your way, especially when you’re a playmaker like he and Lathan are.
“When we were going over how much they run and pass, you could just tell their eyes were lighting up. They’re really excited to go up against a phenomenal challenge in what (West Carrollton) presents athletically.”
The Pirates will look to rack up similar numbers against Sidney’s defense, which has seen marked improved in recent weeks.
The Yellow Jackets allowed an average 332 yards and 24 points per game in their first four games but have allowed an average of 291 yards and 18.6 points in their last three games.
“The last two years, we’ve struggled early on with some of the tough, physical running teams we’ve faced,” Coleman said. “… But we’ve liked our progress. We’re undersized, and we try to do everything we can with our guys up front when facing teams like Troy, where they’re near 300 pounds across the line. We’re just not that size, but our guys play bigger than what they are.
“… I think the stats can kind of lie a little bit. I was just telling the guys that I don’t care if they run for 500 yards, we just want to keep them off the scoreboard. That’s the big deal, and I think we’re getting better.
“… Looking at a game like Troy, we had them in a couple of fourth-and-three’s where we couldn’t get them off the field and they scored. We’re so close, and that’s what we’re preaching to the guys. We’re so close to keeping a team under 10.”
West Carrollton will try to get back to the offensive success it had against Tippecanoe and Piqua on Friday. The squad lost 7-0 at Greenville in rainy, windy conditions last Friday and amassed 143 yards in the loss. Cleveland completed 6-of-23 passes for 88 yards with one interception and managed 29 rushing yards on 11 carries.
“I think Greenville is a much-improved defensive team, and I think we’ll see that when we go there (in Week 10),” Coleman said. “They gave West Carrollton a lot of problems. But I do think the rain had a little to do with it, especially in the pass game.”
The Yellow Jackets will also look to get going on offense again on Friday. After moving the ball in the first half against Troy, they couldn’t get going in the second half as the wind and rain picked up. Their four drives in the second half ended with two three-and-outs, an interception and a turnover on downs.
“We definitely want to get all three of these last games, but all three of them are going to be massive challenges,” Coleman said. “We’ve got a lot of competitors in that locker room that love to compete and come out and try to win, and that’s what we keep preaching: keep competing, keep competing, keep competing.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.