RIVERSIDE — After several long plays in the first half, Sidney and Stebbins’ defenses both prevented each other’s offense from breaking anything open in the second half.
The Indians were able to capitalize on two Sidney turnovers in the half, though, and rally to hand the Yellow Jackets their first loss.
Sidney scored right before halftime to take a four-point lead but Stebbins scored the only touchdown in the second half to win a Miami Valley League Valley Division game 22-20 on Friday at Edmundson Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets (1-1) had the ball four times in quick-moving second half as Stebbins (2-0) controlled the time of possession. Sidney’s two third-quarter drives both ended in turnovers, and they quickly punted on their first drive in the fourth. Their second drive in the fourth ended when they turned the ball over on downs with 52 seconds left.
“Like a lot of offenses, we depend a lot on flow, when you pick up some yards in chunks and get in a rhythm and get a good thing going,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We’re pretty lethal when we do that, but we couldn’t get in enough of a rhythm tonight. There’d be a dropped ball or a holding call or a sack, and that disrupted the rhythm.”
Mistakes in the first half helped Stebbins stay close. A snap went over Sidney punter Wes Davidson’s head early in the second quarter, and after the Davidson scrambled to recover it, the Indians got the ball at Sidney’s 23-yard line and scored on the next play.
Two consecutive sacks later in the second quarter resulted in Stebbins earning a safety.
“A lot of credit goes to (Stebbins) for disrupting us,” Doenges said. “… We knew their defense was going to be really good. They return their top eight tacklers and the majority of their defense from last year, and when you do that, you can be pretty special. They did a phenomenal job tonight and kept us on our toes on offense. We couldn’t string enough plays together.”
It was another solid showing for Sidney’s defense. While Stebbins accrued 319 yards of offense and 18 first downs, the Yellow Jackets forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by Jacob Wheeler in the first half.
“I thought we did some good things on that side of the ball,” Doenges said. “I’ll have to go back and watch film, but we played pretty well. Special teams wasn’t as solid as the previous week, and that’s something we’ve got to get better at.”
Sidney finished with 288 yards of offense and 19 first downs. Most of the yards came through the air; Cedric Johnson completed 17-of-30 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown. E.J. Davis led the squad with 76 rushing yards on 16 carries, and Johnson finished with one rushing yard on 11 carries due to being sacked several times.
Stebbins turned the ball over on downs on its first drive of the second half. The Yellow Jackets drove into Stebbins’ territory, but Javin Mack-Brown intercepted a pass from Johnson and returned it to Sidney’s 48.
The Indians scored several plays later when junior quarterback Nate Keller ran in from 13 yards out to give the squad a two-point lead with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
The Yellow Jackets drove to Stebbins’ 36 late in the fourth quarter but then lost 17 yards and turned the ball over on downs with 52 seconds left.
Junior defensive lineman Evan Kennedy recovered a fumble in Stebbins territory early in the first quarter, and the Yellow Jackets scored on an 11-yard TD run by Davis with 8:51 left to take a 7-0 lead.
Stebbins fumbled on its next drive, but Sidney was forced to punt after losing yards. The Indians quickly drove down the field, but Wheeler intercepted a pass in the end zone.
The Yellow Jackets’ next drive ended with the botched punt, and Stebbins’ Marvelous Rutledge took a shovel pass 23 yards on the next play to tie it with 8:59 left in the second.
Sidney’s next drive ended in the safety, which increased the Indians’ lead to 9-7.
The Yellow Jackets retook the lead when Wheeler scored on a 35-yard TD pass from Johnson with 2:15 left. A two-point conversion try failed, resulting in a score of 13-9.
The Indians quickly scored when Rayvon Harris caught a 62-yard TD pass from Keller, but the Yellow Jackets drove down the field fast on their next drive and scored when Johnson threw a 32-yard TD pass to Sam Reynolds to take a 20-16 halftime lead.
“It felt good right before half to put one in there,” Doenges said. “That was a good momentum booster going into half.”
Keller completed 9-of-19 passes for 133 yards and ran for 130 yards on 27 carries.
Sidney will play its first home game of the season next Friday when it hosts West Carrollton for an MVL Valley Division matchup. The Pirates, which lost by three points to Stebbins in a season opener, dropped to 0-2 with a 45-32 loss at Fairborn on Friday.
“They played (Stebbins) pretty even, so we’re going to have our work cut out for our senior night next week,” Doenges said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.