SIDNEY — Sidney players looked all over the field following a win over Greenville on Friday but couldn’t find the Little Brown Jug. The traveling trophy between the two schools is usually awarded to the winner right after the contest, but it was absent from Sidney Memorial Stadium.
While the Jug may not have been in on the celebration, its absence didn’t dampen the Yellow Jackets’ exhilaration.
A pair of touchdown receptions by senior receiver E.J. Davis in the fourth quarter broke a 14-14 tie. He caught a 10-yard TD pass from senior QB Donavin Johnson with 6:13 left to give the squad a 21-14 lead after an extra point by Carson Taylor, then scored on a 25-yard TD pass from Johnson with 1:40 left.
“Those were big plays,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “… I’m extremely proud of the growth he’s had as a person the last year. He’s been a leader. He made some fantastic plays tonight, and he’s going to continue to do that.”
Davis has over 2,000 career rushing yards to his credit, most of which came his sophomore season. He had a decreased load last year after new offensive coordinator Britton Devier installed a more pass-heavy scheme, and this year, he’s moved to receiver.
“It takes less wear and tear off his body, and that way, he can play some more on defense. He’s a vital part of our defense,” Doenges said. “He’s been fantastic on both sides of the ball.”
The teams traded punts in the second half until junior linebacker Griffin Moore intercepted a pass at midfield and returned 23 yards to Greenville’s 25-yard line with 8:17 left.
Davis caught his first TD pass two minutes later on a fourth down.
“The old saying is, ‘the Lord hates a coward,’ so we went for it, and it paid dividends,” Doenges said.
The Green Wave went three-and-out on its next drive and punted to its 45. The Yellow Jackets methodically drove and let the clock tick, then Johnson threw the 25-yard TD pass to Davis in the front corner along the home sideline.
Moore had six tackles in addition to his game-changing interception.
“He’s one of three junior linebackers we rotate right now to try to fill the void until we get (senior linebacker) Devin Taborn back (from a knee injury), and those three are battling,” Doenges said. “They were all JV kids last year, and it was really neat to see Griffin make a humongous play like that.”
Senior defensive lineman Jaden Swiger had six tackles and one sack. Davis finished with five solo tackles, while Chris Hudgins had 5.5 total tackles and Izayah Clarke had five. Myles Vordemark recovered one fumble and finished with 2.5 tackles.
Greenville amassed 343 yards of offense. While that’s more than Doenges would have liked, it’s still season low for the Green Wave, which accrued over 400 yards in a Week 1 loss to Eaton and over 600 yards in a Week 2 loss to Stebbins.
Greenville junior running back Brock Short was also held to a season-low 158 rushing yards on 25 carries. He gained 207 yards in Week 1 and 415 yards last week.
“I can’t say enough about those guys,” Doenges said of Sidney’s defensive players. “Coach (Kyle) Coleman and the defensive staff have been doing a fantastic job. I know they took last week’s loss hard, giving up that many points.
“… We knew we didn’t play well enough to win last week on the defensive side of the ball. They went after it in practice this week. The attitude and the mentality on the defensive side of the ball this week all started with Coach Coleman, and he did a fantastic job.”
The Yellow Jackets amassed a season-high 251 yards of offense. Johnson completed 12-of-21 passes for 171 yards with two TDs. Sam Reynolds led the squad with five receptions for 108 yards while Davis finished with three catches for 47 yards.
Junior running back Martez Harris gained 58 rushing yards on 12 carries while Johnson gained 30 yards on 18 carries and scored one TD.
Doenges credited the squad’s linemen for helping with the improvement.
“I’m really proud of our guys, especially our seniors, and in particular Evan Kennedy,” Doenges said. “He’s a guy that starts at tackle for us on offense, and we rotate him at the nose position on defense.
“I’m really proud of him and all our linemen. They’ve taken some heat the last couple of weeks of not getting their jobs done, and I thought they battled really, really hard tonight.”
Freshman Julius Spradling returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead.
Johnson and Davis each fumbled in the first quarter, but the Yellow Jackets’ defense kept the Green Wave out the end zone both times. Sidney forced a turnover on downs at its own 6-yard line after the first fumble, and Greenville missed a 25-yard field goal try late in the quarter after the second fumble.
Greenville got the ball again right before the end of the first quarter and scored with 8:44 left in the second when Short broke through the middle and ran 26 yards for a touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets responded on their next drive when Johnson broke through the middle and scored on a 17-yard run with 6:53 left to give the squad a 14-7 lead.
But the Green Wave tied it just before halftime after Sidney turned it over on downs at midfield with about one minute left.
Short broke a run on the home sideline, and Jack Royer caught an about 23-yard TD pass from Short with nine seconds left to tie it 14-14.
The victory capped off an all-around celebratory night. Aside from being the squad’s first home game of the season, the 50th reunion of the program’s “30 and 0” run from 1968-1970 was held, and former players, coaches and administrators were honored at halftime.
And it wasn’t just any home opener — it was the program’s first game at Sidney Memorial Stadium following a 2020 campaign in which crowd size was severely limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Wins are always good,” Doenges, who’s in his 11th year, said. “Earlier in my career, I’d be upset with an ugly win, but I’m not going to do that anymore. It’s tough to win football games, so we’re going to enjoy this a little bit more than what we used to in the past.”
And players got to eventually enjoy the win with the Little Brown Jug. The prize hadn’t been removed from the school’s trophy case prior to Friday’s game, but Sidney athletic director Mitch Hoying raced back to the building after the victory, got it and brought it stadium so players could celebrate with it.
Sidney (1-2, 1-1 MVL Valley Division) is scheduled to host Vandalia-Butler (1-2, 1-1) in an MVL crossover game next Friday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.