SIDNEY — Three starting linemen on the bench with injuries and a kicker with a broken nose didn’t stop Sidney from scoring its most points since its season opener on Friday.
The Yellow Jackets got going in the final seconds of the first quarter and raced to a 32-20 Miami Valley League Valley Division victory over West Carrollton at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
It’s the second consecutive victory for Sidney (3-2, 2-1 MVL Valley), which is scheduled host archrival Piqua next week.
“In the past, we’ve had trouble working as a team,” Sidney junior running back E.J. Davis said. “We’ve had fights with each other here and there, but we told each other we’d have to clean it up, or we weren’t going to go anywhere the rest of the season. It was time for us to (clean it up), because we don’t have much time left, and we want to make a run.”
The only thing Sidney was fighting Friday was injuries. The squad’s offensive line was battered in a 28-21 win at Xenia last week. The Yellow Jackets were without three starters on Friday, including center Bryon Jones.
Sidney started slow against West Carrollton with several backup linemen, including third-string center Jackson Pettit, who had a couple of high snaps that senior quarterback Cedric Johnson had to leap to grab or chase after.
But Pettit and the rest of the backups settled in as the first quarter went on, and Sidney’s offense got going.
The Yellow Jackets took advantage after recovering a West Carrollton fumble by driving 42 yards over the last three minutes of the first quarter and scoring on a 34-yard field goal by Carson Taylor as time expired. They then scored two TDs in the second quarter to take a 17-0 halftime lead.
“I give a lot of credit for those kids battling,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said of the team’s second-string linemen. “It wasn’t pretty for some of them. We’ve got some guys playing on the offensive and defensive lines that weren’t getting a lot of snaps Week 1 and Week 2, but they battled and played hard.”
It was the first game since Sept. 4 for West Carrollton. The Pirates canceled their last two games after a player tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after the Pirates’ Week 2 game at Fairborn.
“With them not having any experience with game speed or game-like physicalness the last two weeks, we wanted to get out (to an early lead) on them,” Doenges said. “We wanted to try to get them to have to match our speed and physicalness.
“I don’t know if we jumped out quite like we wanted to. I think we came out a little flat, but we were eventually able to put some scores together. It was nice to be able to have that lead, and when they started scoring, we were able to answer and keep it a two-score lead.”
Davis helped lead the Yellow Jackets’ attack. He ran for a season-high 139 yards on 16 carries and scored one TD.
Davis credited the squad’s linemen for helping in the performance.
“They were fantastic,” Davis said. “I didn’t doubt (the backup) players, but I didn’t expect them to do as good of a job as they did. They were great and I’m grateful, because I wouldn’t be doing what I do without them or without Devin (Taborn) or our receivers blocking for me.”
Johnson, who named homecoming king before Friday’s game, completed 7-of-10 passes for 163 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Taborn, a junior running back, ran for 39 yards and two TDs on 12 carries.
Jacob Wheeler led Sidney with 62 receiving yards on two catches, including a 36-yard TD reception in the second quarter.
Davis, Wheeler, Izayah Clarke and Sam Reynolds each had plays of 30 or more yards for Sidney while Taborn and Avante Martin each had plays of 15 or more yards.
Taylor, who is in his first season playing football, also plays as a midfielder for Sidney’s boys soccer squad. He broke his nose during a game against Fairborn on Thursday night and Sidney and was initially unsure if he’d be able to kick on Friday.
Aside from the field goal, Taylor made all three of his extra-point attempts.
“I think he might have had some stitches, too,” Doenges said. “From what I heard it was a fairly physical hit where we went up for a (header) and two guys went up with him, and he bore the brunt of it. He had a head into his nose.
“He called me last night and said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to feel in the morning.’ I told him we’d judge it in the morning. A half hour later, he said, ‘Never mind, I’m going to play.’ It was nice to have him out there. It was great when we had the opportunity to put some points on the board (early in the second quarter) that we had him.”
The Pirates finished with 368 yards of offense but lost four fumbles. Beau Davis recovered two fumbles for Sidney while Jaden Swiger and Damon Dobbs each recovered one.
Kamaury Cleveland completed 12-of-19 passes for 146 yards with one touchdown and ran for 75 yards on 10 carries. Tyron Darby gained 134 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Cleveland and Darby are both juniors and are already receiving recruiting interest from Division I collegiate programs. Neither played in the first quarter but played the rest of the game.
“Those two guys are special athletes,” Doenges said. “Even though they were out two weeks and we only had two weeks of scouting reports to look at, we knew when we flipped on the game film how much of a challenge we were in for with them.
“Having two great athletes at quarterback and running back like that is a great position for any team, no matter who the other nine guys are.”
The teams punted on the first three possessions of the game before West Carrollton fumbled at its own 42-yard line to set up Sidney’s first scoring drive.
After Taylor’s field goal put Sidney ahead 3-0, the Pirates turned the ball over on downs at Sidney’s 40. Sam Reynolds took a short pass 52 yards to move Sidney in the red zone, then Taborn scored on a 2-yard run with 7:37 left.
West Carrollton turned the ball over on downs in Sidney territory on its next drive. The Yellow Jackets scored shortly after when Jacob Wheeler hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass along the home sideline to increase the lead to 17-0.
The third quarter was plagued by penalties and injury timeouts. Darby scored on a 54-yard run with 5:13 left to cut Sidney’s lead to 17-6 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
The Yellow Jackets responded with a 73-yard drive, which Davis capped off with a 4-yard run with 11:55 left in the fourth to boost the lead to 24-6.
Dujuan Howard scored on a 2-yard run with 5:34 left, but Sidney again quickly drove down field thanks to a 47-yard run by Davis and scored on a 4-yard run by Taborn with 4:17 left. Reynolds caught a two-point conversion pass to boost the lead to 32-14.
“If we didn’t do that, it could have been tougher on us,” Davis said. “They kept driving on us there late, back-and-forth like that. We had to score there.”
Darby finished the game’s scoring with a 51-yard TD reception from Cleveland with 2:48 left.
The Yellow Jackets will now prep for the undefeated Indians, which beat Tippecanoe 28-3 on Friday.
“Hopefully some of our guys get healthy, and we have them back next week,” Doenges said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.