SIDNEY — Sidney rallied in the second half of its senior night game on Friday but couldn’t hang on in a Miami Valley League contest against Stebbins.
The Indians kicked a late field goal and sealed it with a series of sacks on the Yellow Jackets’ last two drives to earn a 23-21 victory at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Stebbins led 20-7 early in the third quarter but Sidney battled back and took the lead early in the fourth after two short touchdown runs by sophomore E.J. Davis. The Indians responded with a long drive that was capped when Gage Fosberg kicked a 22-yard field goal with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Sidney (3-6, 2-4 MVL Valley Divsion) had two drives after that, but junior quarterback Cedric Johnson was sacked several times in both drives, the last of which resulted in a turnover on downs with less than a minute left.
Sidney struggled early in the first half and had several penalties that wiped out big plays, including a touchdown return after an interception. The Yellow Jackets finished with nine penalties for 92 yards.
“Officiating crews are always going to be different, and you have to adjust,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “Last week (at West Carrollton), they didn’t really call anything and let the kids play. This crew called things a little bit tighter, and we had to adjust how we do some things. I don’t think we adjusted quickly enough.”
The Indians were aided by other Sidney errors. Johnson was hit while throwing late in the second quarter, and a Sidney player hovered over the ball but didn’t fall on it in time. Stebbins recovered inside the 5-yard line and scored shortly after.
A roughing the punter penalty on the first drive of the third quarter also gave the Indians’ new life on a possession they scored on to take a 13-point lead.
“I thought we had a decent week of practice, but some mental mistakes on some simple things that shouldn’t be happening this time of year reared their ugly head on both sides of the ball,” Doenges said.
One area that hurt Sidney’s defensive effort has been a problem for the squad this year: third downs. The Indians converted 8-of-14 third-down attempts — including several third-and-longs — to keep drives alive.
“We’ve got to get off the field on third down, and we didn’t do a very good job of that,” Doenges said. “We just didn’t make plays when we needed to. Then on the offensive side of the ball we need to put ourselves in positions where we can pick up third downs, and we didn’t do that consistently enough tonight.
“Give Stebbins a lot of credit. Their kids made a lot of plays tonight on third downs, and we didn’t make enough.”
Sidney will finish the season on Friday at Greenville. The Yellow Jackets have beat the Green Wave the last three seasons to earn the Little Brown Jug, the traveling trophy the winner of the matchup earns each year.
Aside from claiming the trophy for a fourth-straight year, Doenges is hopeful the squad can send the seniors out with a victory in their final game since the squad came up short on its senior night.
“It’s a great group of kids, all 15 of them,” Doenges said. “They show up every day and they keep working. I expect them to do the same thing this Sunday and turn the page and get back after it.”
Stebbins led 14-7 at halftime and extended its lead on the first drive of the third quarter. After getting new life after a Sidney player collided with Stebbins’ kicker on a punt attempt, the Indians scored several plays later on a 4-yard TD run by Marvelous Rutledge. Sidney blocked the extra-point attempt, but Stebbins had a 20-7 lead.
The Yellow Jackets responded on their next drive. After Johnson threw a 27-yard pass to senior receiver Ryan Cagle on a fourth down to move the ball inside the 5-yard line, Davis ran in from three yards out two plays later to cut the lead to 20-14 with 4:10 left.
The Indians (3-6, 2-6) turned the ball over on downs at Sidney’s 30-yard line with 54 seconds left in the third, and the Yellow Jackets quickly scored.
After Johnson ran 20 yards up the middle, Davis scored on the next play on a 13-yard TD run in which he took a handoff, ran right toward the home sideline and dove into the end zone. Senior kicker Hallie Truesdale made the extra point to give Sidney a 21-20 lead with 11:23 left in the fourth.
Stebbins quickly drove into Sidney’s red zone and stalled, but Fosberg kicked the go-ahead field goal to end the drive.
The Yellow Jackets went three-and-out and punted with about five minutes left, and the Indians then did the same and punted to Sidney’s 23 with 3:04 left. The Yellow Jackets lost yardage on the drive and turned the ball over on downs after a sack on fourth down with under a minute left.
Sidney finished with 253 yards of offense while Stebbins had 282. Davis led the squad with 142 rushing yards on 20 carries and completed 3-of-3 pass attempts for 45 yards. Johnson completed 4-of-6 attempts for 81 yards.
Stebbins sophomore quarterback Nate Keller completed 12-of-18 passes for 113 yards and ran for 87 yards on 15 carries.
Sidney went three-and-out on the first drive of the game, and Stebbins quickly scored. After a couple of long passes, Keller scrambled 13 yards for a touchdown to give the squad a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
The Yellow Jackets scored on their next drive when senior receiver Lathan Jones caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Johnson. Two false start penalties pushed the extra-point attempt to the 20-yard line, but Truesdale made the kick to tie it 7-7.
Jones intercepted a pass from Keller and had a return for a touchdown negated by a penalty. The squads then traded punts until late in the second quarter, when the Yellow Jackets blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt and took over on downs with just under two minutes left.
Johnson was hit while throwing on a play, and Stebbins recovered at the 2 with 28.6 seconds left. The Indians scored 15 seconds later on a 5-yard TD pass from Keller to Kelby Cox to take a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.