SIDNEY — The first half of Sidney’s season opener against Bellefontaine couldn’t have gone much worse. The squad played far better in the second half and will try to build off that momentum.
Bellefontaine took a 28-point lead in the first half and pushed the margin to an even 30 points in the fourth quarter in a 43-13 running clock victory over the Yellow Jackets.
The Chieftains’ balanced offense was too much for Sidney to contain. Junior running back Chris Fogan ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries, and sophomore quarterback Tavien St. Clair completed 20-of-27 passes for 168 yards with two TDs and one interception — and even caught one touchdown pass.
“They’ve got some special kids on that side, and those are some kids that have been starting,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “They’ve got a good amount of kids returning from last year, when they were relatively young. They’re a team that’s going to win a lot of games.
“I still believe we’re a good football team. We’re going to have some honest conversations and get better. The old saying in coaching is you have your biggest week of improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. We’re going to challenge the kids to do that.”
Bellefontaine scored two touchdowns in each the first and second quarters to take a 28-0 lead, but Sidney sophomore Julius Spradling returned the second half opening kickoff 98 yards (after having initially mishandled it) to cut the gap to 28-6 after a blocked extra-point attempt.
The Chieftains quickly responded as Fogan broke open up the middle on a 53-yard TD run to boost the lead to 35-6 with 11:00 left in the third.
But the Yellow Jackets then went on a lengthy drive and scored when Tucker Herron threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sam Reynolds with 5:59 left to cut the gap to 35-13 after an extra-point attempt by Joey Flynn.
Sidney forced a Bellefontaine punt but then fumbled a punt attempt of its own. Mason LeMaster intercepted a pass to end the possession, but Herron had a pass picked off shortly after.
The Chieftains then drove down and scored when St. Clair threw a 25-yard TD pass to Collin Deitsch with 8:31 left. St. Clair completed a two-point conversion pass to push the margin to 30 points and start a running clock.
Doenges said he was pleased with how the team played in the second half and late in the second quarter. Bellefontaine drove inside the 5-yard line late in the second quarter, but Sidney forced a turnover on downs right before halftime and prevented the second half from starting with a running clock.
“We came out playing hard, but we needed a spark,” Doenges said. “We got that in the second half. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes and couldn’t sustain that. We’ve got some guys that can make some plays. We’ve got to make the plays when we have the opportunities.”
The Chieftains finished with 454 yards of offense while Sidney finished 182. Herron had three passes intercepted in his debut varsity game; he completed 11-of-19 passes for 51 yards with one TD.
The teams traded punts to start the game, then Bellefontaine got going on its second drive.
The Chieftains drove into the end zone and scored on a trick play.
St. Clair, who is being heavily recruited and already has offers from Florida and Tennessee among other universities, was under center and appeared to be calling a play when the ball was snapped to Fogan in the backfield.
Fogan ran left and tossed the ball to receiver Riley Neer, who started at QB against Sidney last year but ultimately lost the starring position to St. Clair.
Neer ran right and threw a pass St. Clair, who hauled in the TD reception with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
Sidney went three-and-out, and Fogan broke open a 47-yard TD run with 1:15 left to push the lead to 14-0.
The Chieftains intercepted a Herron pass at Sidney’s 41-yard line late in the first, then scored when St. Clair threw a 4-yard TD pass to Collin Deitsch with 11:24 left in the second quarter to push the lead to 21-0.
Fogan scored on a 4-yard TD run with 6:46 left to push the lead to 28-0.
“When you spend all those days in the offseason with the countdown clock on with Bellefontaine on it, this is not how you want to show up,” Doenges said. “We got that defensive stop to start the game, then they just rolled after that.
“We had some guys inexperienced on Friday nights, and that got exposed. After that, we had to start overcompensating a bit for some deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. They caught us a couple of more times, but the kids kept battling.
“I was proud of how we played in the second half. But at the end of the day, when plays needed to be made, the Bellefontaine kids made them and we weren’t able to.”
Sidney is scheduled to open Miami Valley League play by hosting Tippecanoe next Friday.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.