Sidney had 22 players and most of its defensive starters graduate after winning its first Miami Valley League Valley Division title last season.
But with six starters back on offense, a strong sophomore class maturing and a couple of transfers, the Yellow Jackets are hoping for even better results this season.
Sidney started 2-4 last year but finished strong.
After a 10-point loss to Fort Loramie in a hastily scheduled makeup game dropped them to 3-5, the squad rebounded the following week by beating a 5-3 Stebbins team by 15 points, then beat a six-win Xenia team 38-0 in Week 10 to finish 5-5, earn the Valley Division title and a playoff berth.
Sidney has six starters back on offense and two back on defense. But coach Adam Doenges, who’s entering his 12th season, is counting on a strong sophomore class that went 7-1 both years in middle school to step up.
“Our varsity locker room is grades 10 through 12, with the freshman separate, so when you lose a big senior class and you move 25-27 sophomores into that locker room, you’ve got a lot of new faces, and you don’t know how that locker room is going to blend together,” Doenges said.
“We lost a lot of starters, and not just starters, but 2-, 3- and even some 4-year starters. So we’ve got a lot of inexperience. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. Those kids don’t know any better and they’re ready to prove that they can play also.”
Sidney will have a new starter at quarterback in junior Tucker Herron. Herron edged out sophomore Logan Davis, who is dealing with lingering shoulder issues after an injury on junior varsity last season. Junior Mitchell Davis, a tight end and receiver, will be the squad’s backup QB until Logan Davis can return.
Herron will guide the squad’s new “gun-T” offense that combines elements of shotgun and wing-T styles. Plays will be called by assistant coach Kyle Coleman, who moves from defensive to offensive coordinator.
Doenges said Herron is playing well.
“We do a lot of different formations and a lot of different motions and he still has to be able to make some throws, and he’s done a nice job,” Doenges said. “Being a quarterback, there’s more than just being able to throw the ball. You have to have leadership abilities and keep a cool head. He’s doing well at it.”
Two of the squad’s top receivers return from a year ago in senior Sam Reynolds and sophomore Julius Spradling. Reynolds was a first team all-MVL selection and led the squad with 36 receptions, 546 receiving yards and four receiving TDs. Spradling caught 14 passes for 225 yards and one TD in his freshman season.
“We saw already in our scrimmages that those two are our biggest playmakers on the offensive side of the ball,” Doenges said. “We’re going to have to continue to find ways to get them the ball. Sam is still a deep ball threat, but he’s also going to get some touches with some screens and jet motion sweeps and that kind of stuff.”
Davis and senior Jy Wheeler will also get some balls thrown their way this season.
Martez Harris, a senior, is back at running back. He gained 195 rushing yards while splitting carries last year with EJ Davis, who graduated. Sophomore Isaiah Foster will also play at RB.
Three starters return on the offensive line in Thomas Sibert (6-foot-5, 290 pounds), Brennan Barnes (6-1, 243) and Hayden Cotrell (6-1, 293). Barnes was a center last year but will move to tackle. Junior Eli Biddle (6-2, 220) will play at center this season. Junior Will Boshears (5-9, 170) will also play on the line.
Doenges will serve as the defensive coordinator this season. The squad’s 3-4 scheme remains.
Sibert, Barnes, Cotrell and Biddle will play some on the defensive line, as will five other players; Doenges said he will rotate linemen to limit wear.
The squad’s two returning defensive starters are both linebackers: Myles Vordemark and Wyatt Biddle.
Vordemark was a first team all-MVL selection and led Sidney with 68 tackles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions last year. Biddle made 34 tackles and recovered one fumble.
“Having those guys back is great,” Doenges said. “Myles can do a lot of different things. He kind of controls that defense and gets guys in the right spot. He’s a film junkie and he tries to put guys in the right spot and himself in the right spot to make plays.”
Wheeler played some at defensive back last season and will start at the position this year. Sophomore Perry “Tank” Fleming, who moved from Springfield to Sidney, will also start at DB.
“His father, he and his brother, a freshman, moved into our community. He’s doing good,” Doenges said. “He’s going to see some time at corner, he’ll play on special teams and he’s Julius’ backup on the offensive side of the ball.”
Another newcomer is junior kicker/punter Joey Flynn, who is open enrolled from Anna. Flynn is a soccer standout and is playing goalkeeper for Sidney’s boys soccer squad.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate to have some decent kickers here the last eight, nine years,” Doenges said. “We were pretty slim going into this summer, and then (Flynn) came here. He’s been doing great.”
After COVID-19 resulted in MVL games being canceled the last two years, Doenges is hopeful for schedule stability this year — and a full MVL slate for the first time. The Yellow Jackets haven’t played a full nine MVL games since the league formed in 2019; it didn’t play Tippecanoe in the first year of the league due to both squads having nonconference contracts to finish.
Sidney opens by hosting Bellefontaine on Friday and will host Tippecanoe in Week 2.
Bellefontaine took advantage of late turnovers and rallied to beat Sidney 20-14 in Week 1 last year and finished 7-5 overall. The Red Devils beat Sidney 45-7 in Week 2 last year and finished 10-3 overall.
Both are expected to be strong again. The Chieftains will boast a quarterback Sidney barely saw last season in sophomore Tavien St. Clair. He played sparingly in Week 1 but later took over as the starter and finished with 1,722 passing yards with 13 TDs and eight interceptions.
St. Clair already holds offers from about eight D-I universities, including Tennessee and Florida.
“You like to start out Week 1 really, really well, but unfortunately for us, we’ve got to go up against probably the biggest-named QB in my 18 years here,” Doenges said. “… The kids are excited about the challenge though. And Week 2 will be challenge too, against a very good Tipp City team. So we’ll have to continue to improve early this season.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.