SIDNEY — In two weeks, Sidney has gone from defensive disarray to defensive perfection.
The Yellow Jackets shut out Vandalia-Butler 16-0 in a Miami Valley League crossover game on Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium to even its overall record to 2-2 and improve to 2-1 in league play.
The improvement started last week when Sidney held Greenville star running back Brock Short to a season-low 158 yards in a 28-14 win and continued Friday.
The Yellow Jackets held Butler to 148 yards of offense, forced three turnovers and forced two turnovers on downs.
“I’m really proud of the kids; they continue to get better,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We’re continuing to find 11 guys we can get on the field to do their job, and we’re starting to string more plays together. That’s why we’ve won our last two games.
“We’re far from perfect and have to continue to get better, but I love the direction we’re moving.”
The return of senior middle linebacker Devin Taborn helped aid in Friday’s strong defensive performance. Taborn, who’s also a basketball standout, tore an ACL in an AAU game in the spring, which cost him all of football offseason and preseason activities, in addition to the first three games.
Taborn looked in midseason form Friday, as he recorded 6.5 tackles in about two and half quarters of action.
“I love our linebackers that we’ve been rotating in, but Devin Taborn brings a different level,” Doenges said. “He’s a football junkie. He loves the game. It took him only five and a half months to come back from an ACL surgery, and that’s not common.
“… He worked his tail off to get back in this spot. Putting in hours late in the evening when no one else was around to get himself back out here. …He got a little banged up and tired tonight, but having him back out is huge for our defense.”
Junior defensive back Myles Vordemark led the squad with 7.5 tackles and recovered two fumbles in the second half. Senior defensive lineman Jaden Swiger recorded 6.5 tackles and sacked Butler quarterback Luke Seibert twice.
“We’ve got kids on that side of the ball flying around,” Doenges said. “They’re getting a better idea of what we want out of them on defense. We’re doing a nice job of rotating some defensive linemen, but at the end of the day, those guys are flying around the ball and believing in the game plan, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Sidney quickly drove and scored on the first drive of the game.
After a 24-yard kickoff return by Izayah Clarke, junior running back Martez Harris picked up about 40 yards on several carries to move the Yellow Jackets into Butler territory.
Senior quarterback Donavin Johnson then took a high snap, weaved through defenders, ran toward the home sideline and crossed the end zone in the corner to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead with 9:29 left after an extra point by Carson Taylor.
“That’s a really good defense (at Butler), and they’re going to continue to do nice things on that side of the ball. So for us to come out and make a statement like that was a tremendous start,” Doenges said.
“… We went right down the teeth of them. That hasn’t been something we’ve been able to do real well, and unfortunately we couldn’t get that moving the rest of the game, but that was a great start to show (Butler) we were ready to play.”
The teams traded punts until late in the first half. Butler turned the ball over on downs with just under four minutes left in the second quarter, but Sidney fumbled soon after following a complete pass.
The Aviators fumbled soon after, and Clarke recovered at Sidney’s 18-yard line.
The Yellow Jackets quickly drove down the field on a variety of passes and runs by Johnson. Johnson threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Sam Reynolds with 12 seconds left to give the squad a 13-0 halftime lead after the extra point kick was low and partially blocked.
Neither squad moved the ball much in the second half, but Sidney took advantage of decent field position late.
The Aviators (1-3, 1-2 MVL Miami) were pinned deep in the second half and had a punt attempt land at their own 11-yard line. Sidney gained one yard the next three plays on runs, but Carson Taylor kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8:44 left to increase the lead to 16-0.
The squads traded a couple more punts before the Yellow Jackets were able to run out the clock.
Sidney had 226 yards of offense. Johnson, who’s in his first year under center, ran for a season-high 105 yards on 20 carries and completed 8-of-17 passes for 81 yards with one interception.
“He’s still learning being his first year, but he’s doing a nice job, and the rest of the guys surrounding him are learning, too,” Doenges said. “We’ve got to continue to improve on that side of the ball and get 11 guys out there that continue to do their job. But we did enough tonight to win.”
Doenges said he was happy with how the squad recovered after turning the ball over twice.
“That’s something we’ve worked on a lot. We’ve spent an hour every single Wednesday since June talking to our kids about adversity and what we have to do better,” Doenges said.
“We feel we’re a pretty good team, and last year, we let some games get away from us because we let our emotions get the best of us. I’m really proud of this senior class buying in and understanding that if we can keep things straight between our ears, we’re going to be alright.”
The Yellow Jackets will have a challenge to keep up their defensive prowess next Friday when archrival Piqua is scheduled to come to town.
The Indians, which were undefeated in regular season last year, improved to 4-0 on Friday with a 35-6 win over Xenia. Their closest win so far this year has been a 28-7 defeat of archrival Troy in Week 3.
“We’re going to enjoy this one before we start thinking (about Piqua),” Doenges said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.