XENIA — No other unit was hit as hard by graduation losses and other departures this offseason as Sidney’s receiving corps. That hasn’t stopped the team from having the best passing attack in the 10-team Miami Valley League.
Sidney (2-2) is without its top two receivers from last season but has four receivers who rank in the top 10 among MVL players in receiving yards.
Senior Avante Martin has an MVL-best 217 receiving yards on 13 catches and has scored three touchdowns. Sophomore Sam Reynolds ranks fourth in the league with 176 receiving yards while senior Jacob Wheeler is seventh with 162 and junior Izayah Clarke is ninth with 158.
Senior quarterback Cedric Johnson leads the league with 717 passing yards.
Martin has turned into Johnson’s favorite deep threat. He’s caught a pass 19 yards or longer in each game, including a 28-yard pass against Xenia on Friday.
Johnson, who is listed on the roster as 5-foot-10, took over as the team’s starter midway through last year. He struggled throwing and finished with 260 passing yards in five games under center. He’s attempted over three times as many passes in four games this year as he did in five a year ago.
“He’s a little dude back there. It’s tough for a 5-9, 5-10 quarterback when their defensive backs are 6-4, 6-5,” Doenges said. “We have worked with him really hard on trying to find passing lanes. We’re worried about balls being batted down, but I don’t think we had one batted down tonight. A lot of credit goes to the offensive line on that too.”
Sidney junior running back E.J. Davis ranks sixth in the MVL with 262 rushing yards on 50 carries. He gained 48 rushing yards on nine carries against Xenia.
Johnson completed 9-of-17 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns and ran for a team-high 73 yards and two TDs on 17 carries. Martin caught four passes for 86 yards while Wheeler caught three passes for 30 yards.
Clarke has become more active in recent weeks. He caught three passes against New Richmond in Week 3 and also had a 34-kickoff return. He caught a two-point conversion pass against Xenia, had a 14-yard punt return and had a 92-yard touchdown reception.
Clarke’s TD catch came early in the third quarter and gave the squad a 28-21 lead.
After the Buccaneers pinned Sidney at its own 8-yard line, Clarke grabbed a short pass up the middle, ran toward the home sideline and outran Xenia’s secondary to the end zone.
“He’s a top-three fastest kid on our team,” Doenges said. “He’s worked his tail off. He was a JV kid last year and he’s been a starter for us all year. He’s been building his confidence up, making sure he runs his routes correctly. It’s just a process for him. Today, it kind of started clicking a little bit more for him.”
OHSAA announces new playoff regions
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced new playoff regions on Friday.
For the first time this season, all teams are eligible for postseason play. The OHSAA expanded the playoffs to seven weeks this season and shortened the regular season to six weeks.
The OHSAA is allowing teams to opt out of postseason play and continue to play regular-season games, and teams can also play additional regular season games after they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs.
Teams needed to inform the OHSAA by Thursday of whether or not they were going to participate in the playoffs.
All area teams will participate in the expanded postseason. The OHSAA said 664 of the 709 teams across the state opted in for the postseason.
Almost all area teams will be in the same playoff regions as last year.
Sidney will be in Division II, Region 8 along with fellow MVL members Piqua, Troy, Fairborn, Xenia, Stebbins and West Carrollton. The region has teams from Cincinnati, Columbus and Lima and includes defending D-II state champion Cincinnati La Salle.
Versailles is in Division V, Region 20. Anna and Minster are in Division VI, Region 24. Fort Loramie, Lehman Catholic, Riverside and New Bremen are in Division VII, Region 28. Also in Region 28 is defending D-VII state champ Marion Local and fellow MAC member St. Henry.
The OHSAA normally restricts playoff participation to the top eight teams in each region, though it is expanding the playoffs to 12 teams per region next year. The Harbins points system is used in normal years to rank teams in each region and determine playoff berths.
With all teams eligible this year, coaches in each region will vote to seed teams. Coaches will vote online on Sept. 29 and 30. The OHSAA will announce playoff brackets on Oct. 1.
Fort Loramie ranked No. 3 in D-VII state poll
Fort Loramie is ranked No. 3 in this week’s Div. VII Associated Press state poll, up from No. 8 last week. Fellow Cross County Conference member Tri-Village is No. 4.
Undefeated Marion Local is ranked No. 1. Both the Redskins and Flyers are undefeated.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.