For the Sidney Yellow Jackets (4-4), who play at Stebbins (3-4) on Friday night, the playoffs are here — already — two full weeks before they formally begin on Oct. 28.
Win one of two remaining games and “avoid the region’s top four football programs” in the region in round one, detailed Adam Doenges, 12-year head coach at Sidney. He added, “Win two and possibly play at home in Week 11.”
It’s music to the ears of Doenges and his players, who have won two straight and are playing their best football of the season.
“Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride. Nobody gonna slow me down,” as the Matthew Wilder hit song in the 1980’s goes.
This positive, upbeat tune could be Sidney’s motto right now. For sure, the Yellow Jackets are creating a buzz that has the attention of Stebbins six-year head coach Greg Bonifay.
“Sidney has developed a great combination of elements you need to have to be successful late in the season,” Bonifay said. “A fast improving quarterback, speed everywhere, a solid offensive line and a defensive star who makes everyone perform better.”
“And four kickoff returns for scores. Wow, that’s amazing. Such a dangerous club.”
The Stebbins mentor added, “Our opponent on Friday is so well-coached. Adam is pushing the right buttons down the stretch.”
This important Friday night clash between Sidney and the Stebbins Indians will be carried live on ScoresBroadcast.com on Friday at 6:25 p.m. The pregame segment includes comments from both Doenges and Bonifay. Kickoff is at 7.
Hits 105.5 FM will simulcast at 6:25.
The contest is loaded with playoff implications. If one of these two teams stumbles twice, a playoff game at Winton Woods, Xenia, Edgewood or Kings is on the table. The four schools are a combined 30-2 and have feasted on opponents all season. Sidney, obviously, would garner massive computer points by upsetting Xenia at home on Oct. 21.
So, tonight marks the first of a pair of season-ending “playoff play-in” tilts that determine Sidney’s “strength of schedule” in the post-season.
Same is so true for Stebbins. The Indians tangle with another band of Indians, 6-2 Piqua, a week from Friday.
Thus, giant leaps in playoff seeding are at stake in the span of eight days for Sidney, currently 12th in Division II, Region 8, and for Stebbins, 14th.
Sidney has taken leaps in its game. Big ones.
Junior quarterback Tucker Herron threw six interceptions in his first three contests, but only two in the last five. He is hitting receivers at a 62 percent clip and has now tossed 13 touchdown passes.
Herron’s leadership is taking hold on the field. He engineered three long drives for touchdowns in the come-from-behind win over Fairborn on the road last week
“Tucker is becoming more efficient all the time, making the right choices, and doing what we need to do to move the chains,” Doenges said. “We know he can get even better.”
The Sidney coach said he is pleased with the progress of his players and the club as a unit.
“We were fairly inexperienced at the varsity level coming into the season,” Doenges said, “with numerous new Friday night people on the field from the start.”
He noted that the tough schedule with Bellefontaine and Tippecanoe early on “forced us to grow up fast.” He said, “We took some lumps, but we’re better for it.”
He added that three new head coaches in the league have boosted the quality of their programs.
To counter this season’s enhanced level of Miami Valley League football, Doenges and his staff have excelled at getting the ball to their playmakers.
Lanky, fleet receiver Sam Reynolds continues to step up his game and has amassed 800 yards on the end of Herron throws. Reynolds is tough to slow down in Sidney’s screen and hitch passing game and often snags Herron’s vertical throws in stride.
Julius Spradling is averaging a dozen yards per reception; Jy Foster-Wheeler, another 14.
On the ground, the rushing duo of Isaiah Foster and Martez Harris are starting to hit their stride, too, pushing the pile forward for 700 yards on the ground.
The kickoff return game has been exceptional. Tank Fleming has taken three boots all the way to the house in four tries. Spradling also has one for a score and has averaged 45 yards per return.
On defense, safety Myles Vordemark, who is almost always around the ball, has put a stick on ball carriers more than 125 times. Inside backer Wyatt Biddle has nailed another 70 more.
“When our defense, as a whole, does its job, we keep Myles clean so he can clean up and make key stops,” Doenges said. “He is so adept at knowing where the play and football are going.”
Sidney is hitting its “stride.” But Coach Bonifay of Stebbins loves his team, too. His clubs have had success versus Sidney, winning by one and two points in 2020 and by two points in 2019.
Senior Adrian Norton, an all-Ohio wide receiver last year, has had to quarterback some this year because of an injury to the season’s starter. It’s not clear if Norton runs the offense this Friday or if Stebbins inserts an underclassman.
Perhaps the best all-around player for Stebbins is Lavell Lyles. He has totaled 60 tackles, five for losses. He will see more duty on offense against Sidney.
The Indians, by the way, are one of the most penalized squads in the MVL.
Expect Stebbins to keep the ball on the ground and run behind 6-4, 280 pound linemen, Jake Wheelock and Isaiah Staudemire. Ohio State is recruiting the stud Wheelock.
Drew Pasteur’s website “The Fantastic 50” predicts Ohio high school football games each week and also projects playoff seedings. Pasteur gives Stebbins the nod by a touchdown on Friday.
However, Pasteur is not aware of the “stride’ factor.
Sidney has it. Hopefully, the Yellow Jackets are singing a little Matthew Wilder after Friday’s contest.