SIDNEY — The pre-season conversation for the Sidney Yellow Jackets bowling team focused on returning to the Division I state tournament. Once there, the Yellow Jackets became the talk of it.
Almost a week later, coach Trent Knoop is still smiling after bringing home the school’s first team state championship in any sport. Sidney, making its second state appearance, captured the D-I state championship last Friday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
Sidney finished third after team qualifying that cut the field down from 16 teams to eight. The Yellow Jackets then blitzed the field in the head-to-head championship round, sweeping its three opponents – including Centerville in the title match – by 3-0 scores. It’s the first time since the OHSAA state tournament started in 2007 that a boys team went 9-0 in match play.
Sidney sophomore Kaden Abbott finished third overall, 14 pins away from winning a state title. He was the highest finishing underclassman and only one to crack the top six finishing with a 702 series after games of 227, 252 and 223.
“He was absolutely on fire. He’s actually a really mellow kid. He doesn’t talk a lot,” Knoop said. “He kind of keeps to himself, but on Friday it was like he was a different person. He had a little bit of a swag to him. He knew it was his day and he was kind of letting people know about it. It was fun to watch him. It was like he couldn’t miss. It was awesome.
“The talent is definitely there for him. He could have won it. He actually missed a few spares the last game. If he picks up one of those spares he’s probably the state champion.”
After Abbott, senior Jaxon Rickey finished 21st overall with 632. Senior Logan Finke was 38th with 581 and senior Harrison Fisher was 70th with 521. Senior Drake Cromes bowled 193 in the first game against Centerville. Sophomore Jarred Kirk, who spend most of the season on the JV team, came off the bench to bowl the third game in the final. He responded with a season-high 219. His best coming into the tournament was 181.
“I would have been thrilled if he shot 180,” Knoop said. “He came in and gave us a huge spark off the bench. That was phenomenal. His teammates were great keeping him calm. The stage wasn’t too big for him and showed us what he has potential wise.”
Sixteen teams qualified for the state tournament. Individuals bowled three regular games for a combined team score, then three Baker games where bowlers take turns for 10 frames.
Sidney rolled games of 1,033, 975 and 1,003 in the regular games for 3,011 to put them third behind Centerville and Kent Theodore Roosevelt. They rolled games of 236, 194 and 178 for a 608 series in the Baker games, good for the fourth-highest score. Their combined score of 3,619 was third best and moved the Yellow Jackets into the bracket round.
There Sidney opened with Berea-Midpark and won the head-to-head match 183-164, 236-179 and 188-170. Sidney then beat Mentor in the semifinals 200-144, 202-158 and 200-158.
Top-seeded Centerville, meanwhile, went five games in its semifinal win over Cincinnati LaSalle, winning 160-214, 191-166, 171-220, 213-164 and 216-182.
“We had the talent to get there. I thought we were probably a top four or top five team going into state,” Knoop said. “My goal was just to get to the top eight. Once you get to the top eight anything is possible. Truthfully, I didn’t know we would win it.”
Sidney had faced Centerville several times during the season in tournaments but not head-to-head. The Elks has finished ahead of the Yellow Jackets every time.
That changed fast on the lanes at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. In the title match, Sidney rolled a 237 the first game to Centerville’s 196. Sidney edged out the second game 171-160.
That put the Yellow Jackets on the brink of the state title. They responded with a 244 to Centerville’s 193.
“My kids were pumped and ready to go against Centerville because they’re a powerhouse and they are every year,” Knoop said. “They beat us multiple times in tournaments so it was really nice to get them in the state finals, to get a shot at beating them. They’re a great team and very well coached. It was a great win.”
Sidney graduates five seniors off this year’s team: Rickey, Finke, Fisher, Cromes and Brodey Morrow.
“They were vital for us all year,” Knoop said. “(At the state tournament) Jaxon made some big shots for us in Bakers. Harrison picked up a few key splits for us, and was good energy for the team. Drake was a great leader. Things didn’t go his way during regular bowling, but he kept the team up, and bowled great in match play. Logan Finke was consistent for us all day long. He kept his head on straight and just kept fighting all day long. Solid spare shooting was his key. Lastly, Brodey Morrow. He didn’t bowl much, but you wouldn’t have known that with his attitude. He was such a great teammate.
“(They mean) everything in the world to the program. They’ve been working so hard for the past four years. The past couple of years the goal was to get to state. Get Sidney back to state. That’s all we talked about all year long. Those five seniors have been such great leaders. They are so deserving of this.”
The Yellow Jackets celebrated with a dinner at Max and Erma’s, then received an escort into town from the police and fire departments.
“I told them they’re going to remember this the rest of their lives,” Knoop said. “They’re going to be telling this to their grandkids in 50 years. They’re going to cherish every moment of this.”