SIDNEY — Sidney’s coaching staff had a little less busy weekend than normal following Friday’s 28-21 win over Xenia. There was no scouting report to put together for the next opponent — because the scouting report had already been put together.
The Yellow Jackets (2-2) will host West Carrollton in a Miami Valley League Valley Division contest on Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium. The game was originally scheduled to be played Sept. 11, but it was canceled earlier that week when a West Carrollton player tested positive for COVID-19.
“Nothing has really changed since we put the first (scouting report) together,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “It was just a matter of going back through and rehashing things and double-checking things and making sure we had the game plan that we wanted.”
Sidney and West Carrollton were able to reschedule for this Friday, thanks in part to Xenia and Vandalia-Butler agreeing to play in an MVL Valley Division crossover game this week. The Yellow Jackets were originally scheduled to face Xenia for a second consecutive week while West Carrollton was scheduled to face Butler.
West Carrollton (0-2) hasn’t played since a 45-32 Week 2 loss at Fairborn. Aside from its Week 3 matchup with Sidney, the Pirates also canceled a Week 4 matchup with Xenia.
“With not having any film on them for the last two weeks to go on, it’s kind of like a Greenville or a New Richmond situation for us in that we’re somewhat familiar with (an opponent) but not totally familiar,” Doenges said.
Sidney’s last three games have had tied scores or gaps of two points or smaller in the second half, and West Carrollton had leads in the second half of both its first two games before losing both.
Doenges said he thinks Friday’s matchup could be close and he’s hoping special teams will help give the Yellow Jackets an edge.
Sidney has benefited on special teams from the kicking of Carson Taylor and punting of Wes Davidson and has also benefited by the kickoff returns of several players.
Taylor, who is in his first year of football, ranks second in the MVL with an average of 53.9 yards per kickoff. He’s had five touchbacks this year. Davidson has averaged 36.3 yards on nine punts and had a 42-yard punt against Xenia last week.
As far as returns, Donavin Johnson and Jy Wheeler have helped give the Yellow Jackets good field position. Wheeler, a sophomore, has averaged 29.5 yards on kickoff returns while Johnson, a junior, has averaged 19.7 yards on kickoff returns.
“We take special teams with a lot of pride,” Doenges said. “We’re a little deeper than maybe we have been, and when you’re deeper, that means you can get more guys on the field.
“With our depth, since not all those guys can be starters, we’ve been able to keep some of those guys on special teams, and they’ve really taken pride in it. We’ve got a lot of guys where it’s not just a thing for them to do, they’re taking some big-time pride in it.
“We’ve been able to get some good returns. When you’re able to start on offense on the 40, 45 or 50-yard line, that’s a couple of first downs. Then kicking wise, we got one touchback last week, and I think two other times we were able to get a tackle inside the 20. That’s huge. That’s taking away a first down or two first downs they’ve got to make back up on their own.”
The Pirates averaged 341.5 yards of offense and 28.5 points per game in their first two games. They ranked second in the MVL in yards per game last year despite a 3-7 record.
West Carrollton is led on offense by junior quarterback Kamaury Cleveland and junior running back Tyron Darby. Cleveland threw for 366 yards and five touchdowns with one interception in the team’s first two games and ran for 44 yards while Darby gained 171 rushing yards and scored two TDs.
“(Cleveland) is good,” Doenges said. “You’ve got to be ready for (Cleveland) and (Darby). (Cleveland) can make plays with his arm and can obviously make plays with his legs. We saw a lot last year against us where if the play is broken down, he can run around and is very good at finding himself some time in the pocket and finding an open man down field.
“He’s got a pretty good arm, so he can stretch the field vertically and horizontally. We’re going to have to play the entire field this week with him at quarterback.”
Four different receivers had four or more catches in the first two games. Jereel Sanders caught a team-high seven passes while Jorden Berry caught five passes for a team-high 127 yards with three touchdowns.
Part of the increased production has been due in part to increased carries by senior quarterback Cedric Johnson. Johnson gained 45 rushing yards on 19 carries in the first two weeks but has run for 174 yards on 33 carries the last two weeks. He scored two rushing touchdowns against Xenia last Friday.
“Some of that’s by design, because we have E.J. Davis and Devin Taborn back there (at running back) and they’re both excellent blockers and have a passion for it,” Doenges said. “Some of (his running) is a read.
“When you’ve got an E.J. Davis or a Devin Taborn back there that can make big plays, they get a lot of eyeballs on them, and our quarterbacks have the liberty on certain plays of being able to pull the handoff out and take it on their own. That’s kind of what we’ve seen the last few weeks.”
Johnson has thrown for an MVL-best 717 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. Senior receiver Avante Martin and sophomore Sam Reynolds both rank in the top three in the MVL in receiving yards while senior Jacob Wheeler and junior Izayah Clarke rank in the top nine. Davis ranks sixth in the MVL with 262 rushing yards and is tied for first with six rushing TDs.
The Yellow Jackets were able to keep the ball moving in the second half against Xenia even though four of their five starting offensive linemen were out due to injuries. Doenges said some will be back Friday while others may be back; a couple of the starting linemen will be game-time decisions.
Doenges credited the squad’s second-stringers for stepping up.
“They got some live reps under the lights, so it won’t be a shock for some of those guys getting in this week,” Doenges said. “Some of them are defensive players, so they’ve already been out there, too. There were about two or three guys that got their first Friday night experience last week.
Most of the squad’s offensive linemen also play on the defensive line. With all the injuries last Friday, Doenges said Sidney had 12 players get time on the defensive line.
“We only play three (lineman at a time), so that’s quite a lot,” Doenges said. “I think normally we’re averaging seven, eight guys.”
Sidney’s defense has allowed an average of 248.3 yards and 10.8 points per game. Taborn, a junior who also plays at linebacker, ranks second in the MVL with 36 tackles; he had seven tackles against the Buccaneers.
“We keep preaching to our kids that everybody’s got an assignment and a job to do, and some guys don’t get the stats,” Doenges said. “That’s kind of been our D-line. They’ve got to soak up gaps and soak up blocks, and that should allow Devin and (senior LB) Beau Davis to kind of roam free and wrap guys up.
“Last week playing a run-heavy team, he had a lot of guys run (Taborn’s) way. …He’s got to be able to make plays, and he was definitely making plays. He’s grown up a lot in the last year as far as practice habits and being a leader of our team.
“He’s the unquestionable leader of our defense. We’ve got some great seniors on that side, but when you’re the man in the middle, you’re one of the best on the defense, and it’s good to have one of your best players on defense also be a leader.”
The Yellow Jackets and Xenia were supposed to face off this Friday in Sidney, but with West Carrollton’s Week 4 cancellation, Sidney and the Buccaneers teams moved their game up a week and played last week in Xenia. West Carrollton was originally supposed to face Vandalia-Butler this week, but Xenia will play the Aviators instead.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.