SIDNEY — After an offseason of uncertainty, the last week of regular season is here.
Area teams will take the field for the final week of regular-season play on Friday, one week before the expanded OHSAA playoffs will begin.
It’s the first season the OHSAA has opened the playoffs to every team, and the expansion caused the association to limit regular-season play to six weeks. The OHSAA also shortened the overall season length from 15 weeks to 13 weeks due to COVID-19 concerns.
The OHSAA will announce seeds and brackets for the playoffs on Thursday.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “You’re doing all (your preparation) for your (Week 6) game, but at the same time, you’re voting on your region, and you’re curious we’re you’re going to fall.
“… It’s an interesting time. But it’s been the same thing all year with us; when we get inside the walls of the stadium, our kids are pretty focused on what the job is of that day and not worrying too much about the extra stuff.”
Lehman Catholic is the only area squad that’s had to postpone games due to COVID-19. Six students at the school have tested positive for coronavirus, and recent cases forced the postponement of last week’s scheduled game with Waynesfield-Goshen and this Saturday’s scheduled homecoming game against Lima Perry.
Sidney, which is scheduled to host archrival Piqua on Friday, has gotten through the first six weeks relatively unscathed. Doenges said a couple of players have had to quarantine due to coming in contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19, but none have tested positive themselves.
“It’s been weird,” Doenges said. “A kid’s gone for two weeks, and then all of a sudden, they’re back and ready to go. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with.
“Obviously some teams are dealing with a lot worse, missing a bigger percentage of their team or having a player or multiple players test positive. We’re pretty grateful we’ve been able to make it to this point in the year with nothing major. But obviously anything can happen, so we’ll keep taking it day-by-day, and hopefully we can get to our goal of playing 10-plus football games.”
Sidney has also just made it through a three-game slate of postponements, rescheduling and late additions due to COVID-19. West Carrollton postponed a Week 3 matchup after one of its players tested positive for coronavirus, and the teams made up their game last week.
Sidney scrambled and scheduled New Richmond as a nonconference opponent in Week 3 and moved up a matchup with Xenia in Week 4 to replace a postponed game with Fairborn, which didn’t play for two weeks due to having several players come into contact with the affected West Carrollton player in a Week 2 game.
“You don’t really know how you’re going to handle it until you have to,” Doenges said of the disruptions. “As you keep going through, you keep going with the flow and focus on what you have to get done during that day and trying not to look at anything else.”
Friday won’t be the last regular-season game for most area teams, though. The OHSAA is allowing squads to play additional regular-season games once they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs.
Piqua at Sidney
Piqua (5-0) wrapped up the Miami Valley League Miami Division title by beating previously undefeated Tippecanoe 28-3 last week.
The Indians haven’t given up a touchdown since Week 2 and have allowed just three touchdowns this season. Included in their defensive success was a 27-0 Week 4 win over Stebbins, which secured the MVL Valley Division title with a 29-21 win over Fairborn last Friday.
“They’re pretty good on both sides of the ball,” Doenges said. “We’re five weeks into the season, and looking at everyone we’ve seen while scouting, it hasn’t been real clean football across the board. And with no 7-on-7’s and no scrimmages, that’s not that big of a surprise.
“But Piqua’s the one team we’ve seen that’s not making mistakes offensively or defensively. That’s why they’re 5-0. They don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they don’t turn the ball over and they create turnovers on defense.
“… They’re the one team in the league that looks like they had three scrimmages. It just seems they’re ahead of everybody else with how sound they’re playing.”
Piqua sophomore Brady Ouhl is in his second season as the squad’s quarterback after splitting time at the position with his brother Blane Ouhl last year. Blane Ouhl, a senior, started during the first five weeks last year, including in a 29-0 Week 4 win over Sidney. The younger Ouhl took the majority of the snaps under center the last five weeks.
Brady Ouhl has thrown for 701 yards and six touchdowns with one interception and leads the MVL with a 68.4 completion percentage.
“They’re definitely more open on offense,” Doenges said. “They’re doing a lot more one-(running) back stuff than they’ve done, and (Brady Ouhl) is a facilitator. He’s done a really, really good job of minimizing mistakes, knowing where the receiver is at and not missing targets a whole lot.”
Blane Ouhl has moved to receiver and leads the team with 17 receptions and 202 receiving yards.
Several players have split time at running back for Piqua. Ca’ron Coleman leads the team in rushing yards (338) and carries (41) while Jasiah Medley is second with 330 rushing yards on 33 carries. Both Coleman and Medley have scored six rushing touchdowns apiece.
“They’ve got a pretty good committee there,” Doenges said of the Indians’ RBs. “Any one of the guys in there can do something a little bit different for them. Most of those guys are playing defense too, and they do a good job of rotating kids at running back so they don’t play too much on both sides.”
The Indians’ defense has allowed an MVL-low 216 yards and 6.2 points per game. The squad has intercepted 11 passes and recovered five fumbles and has the best turnover margin of all MVL teams at plus 11.
Coleman, a linebacker, leads the squad with 27.5 tackles and four forced fumbles. He is also one of five players that have intercepted two passes.
“It’s the same defense they’ve always run. It’s just very, very sound,” Doenges said. “They’re not going to beat themselves. They’re going to keep things in front of them. If you complete a pass, they’re not going to miss a whole lot of tackles. When they have an opportunity to punch a ball out, they’re going to punch it out.”
The Indians’ defensive success has started with a strong defensive line, which is anchored by Jerell Lewis (6-foot-2, 252 pounds). Lewis, who has an offer from Holy Cross among other Division I collegiate programs, ranks second on the team with 22.5 tackles and first with five sacks.
Sidney’s defense has allowed an average of 272.2 yards and 12.6 points per game this season.
The squad, which has had several linemen injured in the last two weeks, allowed over 300 yards of offense in wins against Xenia and West Carrollton.
Doenges said the physicality Xenia’s triple-option offense and the speed of West Carrollton’s spread attack were good tune-ups for Sidney before facing the Indians.
“Piqua’s got a good mix of, for lack of a better word, a finesse offense and of being able to do some power run game,” Doenges said. “They’ll bring Lewis in on offense as a sniffer back, similar to what we did with Devan Rogers a few years ago, where it’s like having a fullback in a spread offense.”
Sidney averages 309.6 yards of offense and 28.6 points per game.
Senior quarterback Cedric Johnson has thrown for an MVL-best 880 yards with seven touchdown and four interceptions and run for 215 yards and three TDs. Junior running back E.J. Davis ranks fourth in the MVL with 401 rushing yards and has scored seven rushing TDs.
Sidney’s passing attack has been aided by several athletic receivers who all have over 200 receiving yards.
Senior Avante Martin leads the team in receptions (15), receiving yards (244) and receiving TDs (three). Jacob Wheeler has 224 receiving yards and two receiving TDs, Sam Reynolds has 206 yards and one TD and Izayah Clarke has 202 yards and one TD.
“All of them have the opportunity to make big plays,” Doenges said. “We don’t go into a game pinpointing to get the ball to one guy or another. We have a basic game plan on spots we think we can take advantage of, and we make adjustments as the game goes on.
“Those guys have done a nice job, and they’ve done a nice job at concepts like running their routes the right way even when they’re not going to get the ball, otherwise the whole thing doesn’t work. Those guys are buying into that they’ve got a job to do even if they’re not getting the ball to keep the defense in a position where their teammate can make a play.”