BELLEFONTAINE — Sidney’s no stranger to close losses and was reacquainted with such a result in its season opener on Friday against rival Bellefontaine at AcuSport Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets led the whole game until Bellefontaine tied it with 5:24 left. Sidney’s rally attempts full short, as its last three drives ended in interceptions in a 20-14 defeat.
Two of Sidney’s four losses last season came by two points or less, and four of its seven losses in 2019 came by eight points or less, including a 42-34 loss at Bellefontaine.
“It’s a great rivalry game, and this is what we expect. These games are usually this close,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “At the end of the day, they just made a couple more plays than we were able to.”
The Yellow Jackets built a 14-6 lead by halftime. The squads traded punts for most of the third quarter, but the Chieftains started the biggest drive of the game with 19 seconds left in the third after Sidney turned the ball over on downs at Bellefontaine’s 33-yard line.
Bellefontaine methodically drove down and scored on a 5-yard run by quarterback Riley Neer with 5:24 left in the fourth. Neer followed with a complete pass to Ethan Yoder on a two-point conversion try to tie it 14-14.
Sidney was pinned to its own 12 on the kickoff and had the drive quickly end when a pass from senior quarterback Donavin Johnson was intercepted by Owen Standley at the 21.
Neer scored a 4-yard TD run with 2:22 left to give the squad its first lead of the game. The Chieftains missed a two-point conversion try but they pinned Sidney to its own 17 on the kickoff.
Johnson had a deep pass intercepted at Bellefontaine’s 43 by Collin Deitsch after Sidney senior receiver E.J. Davis fell down.
Sidney forced the Chieftains to punt with 1:12 left, but Bellefontaine’s Sullivan Ashcraft intercepted a pass on the third play of the drive to seal the result.
“We were forced in some spots there, but that’s obviously not what you want,” Doenges said of the three late interceptions. “We’ll have to go back and look at film. Sometimes those aren’t always on the quarterback, even though he’s the one that gets the stat. It could be guys running the wrong route or some other things, too.
“I’m proud of the effort of our guys, but we’ll look at film and reevaluate things and be ready to go on Sunday.”
Sidney took a quick lead.
Bellefontaine got the ball to start the game and was forced to punt from deep in its own territory after getting one first down.
The Yellow Jackets blocked the punt and Kyle Sayre recovered the ball at the 5-yard line and jogged into the end zone for a touchdown. Carson Taylor made the extra point to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead with 10:12 left in the first quarter.
“You can’t get a better start than that,” Doenges said. “We thought we had a good thing with our block team units, both our punt and our PAT units. It’s something we put an effort into in the offseason. That came to fruition tonight, and we saw that in some of our scrimmages.”
The squads traded punts the rest of the quarter, though the Chieftains had more success moving the ball. Bellefontaine broke through and scored when Chris Fogan ran in on a 3-yard run with 10:15 left in the second, but the Yellow Jackets blocked the extra point to keep the lead at 7-6.
The teams traded punts, and Sidney got going on offense late in the quarter with a lengthy drive. Johnson threw an 11-yard TD pass to Sam Reynolds with 2:28 left to boost the lead to 14-6.
The Chieftains drove into Sidney territory, but Davis intercepted a pass with 33 seconds left to preserve an 8-point halftime lead.
Davis caught a team-high six passes for 77 yards, made one interception and had six tackles. Chris Hudgins led the Yellow Jackets with 13 tackles and had one sack. Jaden Swiger made four tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The Yellow Jackets had 169 yards of offense, all but 13 of which came through the air. The Chieftains had 328.
Johnson completed 13-of-24 passes for 156 yards. He led the squad with 11 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Sidney is scheduled to open Miami Valley League play next Friday by traveling to Tippecanoe.
It’ll be the first time the two squads have faced off in MVL play; they last faced each other as GWOC members in 2018.
The squads didn’t play in the MVL’s first season in 2019 due to both having nonconference game contracts that needed finishing. They were set to meet in 2020, but the OHSAA’s reshuffling of the season format due to COVID-19 resulted in the MVL reworking schedules, and the matchup was scratched.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.