XENIA — Sidney players searched for and wanted to hoist the Miami Valley League Valley Division trophy after a dominating win over Xenia in the defacto divisional championship game on Friday at Doug Adams Stadium.
The trophy hasn’t been produced yet — but history has.
Sidney took control quickly and ran away to a 38-0 victory over the Buccaneers to earn the program’s first conference title in 51 years. The Yellow Jackets hadn’t won a league title since capturing the 1970 MVL title.
While there was no trophy to lift, celebration ensued after the game. Sidney students who had made the hour-long drive to Xenia ran onto the field and celebrated with players, who later assembled in the end zone in front of the scoreboard and posed for a team picture.
“This means so much,” senior receiver/linebacker E.J. Davis said. “We get to go home and put a banner up in the gym now. First time in 51 years. We’ll never forget that.”
The title is even a bit more special given that Sidney lost to Fort Loramie 24-14 in a hastily scheduled game two weeks ago. The Yellow Jackets looked in disarray at times in the loss, which dropped the squad to 3-5 overall.
But with the chance at a divisional title unaffected, Sidney regrouped. The Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Stebbins 35-20 last week and dominated from the start on Friday to secure the historic championship.
“It feels great, knowing that you’re not going to end your last high school season in a horrible, horrible way that you don’t want to go out on,” Davis said. “It just feels great to be able to rally back as a team, become a unit and fight through adversity and play at our best.”
Sidney improved to 5-5 overall with the win. The Yellow Jackets finish with a 6-3 league record; the MVL recognizes the Week 8 canceled matchup with Fairborn as a forfeit by the Skyhawks.
The Yellow Jackets’ season will continue. The squad has qualified for the playoffs in what is the first season in which the Ohio High School Athletic Association has expanded postseason eligibility from eight teams per region to 16.
Sidney earned the No. 12 seed in Division II, Region 8 and will travel to No. 5 Trenton Edgewood (7-2) this Friday. The Yellow Jackets traveled to Edgewood for a quad scrimmage each year for several seasons, most recently in 2019.
“We’ll be looking forward to playing together as a unit again,” Davis said. “Just sticking together, doing what we do best. We’ll come ready to go, and not just roll over and die.”
The Yellow Jackets held Xenia (5-4, 5-4 MVL Valley) to 161 yards of offense, its second-lowest production of the season. The Buccaneers converted 1-of-9 third-down attempts and 1-of-4 fourth-down attempts.
Sidney’s defense helped the squad start the night off on the right foot.
Kicker Carson Taylor sent the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. The Buccaneers then lost yardage on the next three plays and were forced to punt.
Sidney blocked the punt, and it went out of the back of the end zone for a safety to give the squad a 2-0 lead with 10:57 left.
“That’s been a big emphasis for us this year, getting after the kicker,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “… I think we’re 2-8 this year on winning the coin flip, so we actually got this one and were able to defer and start the game on defense for once. Our kids were pretty excited about that.”
Sidney took advantage of short fields most of the night and racked up 298 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Donavin Johnson and senior Devin Taborn combined to complete 16-of-20 passes for 225 yards and four TDs, and the squad ran for 73 yards and one TD on 25 carries.
“We’re fully healthy finally and have everybody back there we need, so we’re able to get some good practice during the week and get some wrinkles put in that we’ve been trying to put it in. It’s been fun.”
Taborn, a linebacker and running back, took a snap at quarterback late in the second quarter while Johnson ran out as receiver. Taborn threw up a pass, which a wide-open Johnson caught and ran in the rest of the way on a 28-yard TD reception.
“I think we just put that one in this week,” Doenges said. “(The offensive coaches) surprised me with the call. I didn’t hear they’d called it and it was going in. (Taborn’s pass) sure hung up in the air for quite a long time, but it was there. He was pretty proud of it. Kids like that kind of stuff, and we’ve been doing more of it the last few weeks. We’ve got some more stuff up our sleeves.”
After the safety to start the game, Sidney quickly drove on the next possession and scored when Johnson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Julius Spradling. Taylor’s extra point put Sidney ahead 9-0 with 4:21 left in the first.
After a quick Xenia punt, Sidney moved the ball downfield quickly on a 50-yard pass from Johnson to Sam Reynolds. Taylor made a 34-yard field goal with 9:07 left in the second to give Sidney a 12-0 lead.
The Buccaneers turned it over on downs at their own 46 shortly after, and Sidney scored on three plays. Davis took a short pass from Johnson and weaved his way through defenders on a 20-yard TD reception with 4:29 left, which increased the lead to 18-0 after a failed two-point conversion try.
Xenia turned it over on downs on its next drive, and Sidney scored with 50 seconds left on Taborn’s TD pass to Johnson, which pushed the lead to 24-0 at halftime after a blocked extra point.
Martez Harris scored on a 5-yard TD run with 7:30 let in the third quarter to push the lead to 31-0 and start a running clock. Johnson threw a 28-yard TD pass to Reynolds with 1:29 left to increase the final gap to 38 points.
Davis caught six passes for 76 yards and ran for 15 yards on four carries. Reynolds caught three passes for 84 yards.
Doenges said he was happy the players earned a league title.
“It’s neat. Haven’t been able to play for a trophy like that late in the season, and our kids are pretty excited about it,” Doenges said.
The Yellow Jackets have played at full strength the last two weeks after having numerous starters out due to injuries or illness the first eight weeks of the season.
Doenges said he’s proud of the team’s improvement and is hopeful it’ll continue in the postseason this Friday.
“It’s been good. We’ve been playing with a lot of confidence right now, and that happens when you’ve got everybody back,” Doenges said. “The last two weeks have been our best two weeks of practice we’ve had the entire year. This is as healthy and as strong as we’ve been the entire year, with no COVID stuff, no injuries and all that.
“You always want to be playing your best football at the end of the year, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Along with putting up a banner.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.