RIVERSIDE — The trend of nailbiters when Sidney and Stebbins play each other continued on Friday. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, Friday’s game turned into a nailbiting loss.
Sidney couldn’t hold onto an early two-touchdown lead and lost a Miami Valley League Valley Division game 34-27 at Edmundson Stadium.
Sidney (4-5, 4-4 MVL Valley) drove inside the 35-yard line in the final minutes but turned the ball over on downs after two consecutive dropped passes inside the 20. Starting quarterback Tucker Herron returned on the dropped pass on fourth down but had missed several plays shortly before after he sustained a minor injury on a scramble.
“That was tough, not having him then, and we were losing bodies left and right,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “It’s kind of that time of year when everybody’s got nicks and bangs and that kind of stuff. We had a couple receivers out and a lineman out.
“It creates some turmoil, but the kids responded well, and the backups went in and were ready to go. We just couldn’t make plays when we needed to.”
Sidney scored with 1:47 left in the second quarter to take a 20-6 lead, but the Indians scored twice in the final minute to tie it 20-20 at halftime.
Stebbins senior quarterback Adrian Norton scored on a 1-yard TD run with 8:13 left in the third two plays after he was stopped at the 2-yard line on a 39-yard run. An extra-point attempt was missed, but Stebbins led 26-20.
Sidney turned it over on downs at the 12 with 2:40 left but then forced a quick punt.
The Yellow Jackets then scored when Julius Spradling caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Herron with 9:28 left. Myles Vordemark kicked the extra point to give the squad a 27-26 lead.
But Stebbins scored two minutes later when Norton broke free on a 50-yard touchdown run. He ran in on a two-point conversion try to boost the lead to seven points.
Sidney steadily drove down field. Herron scrambled for a first down inside Stebbins’ territory with under four minutes left, but then left after a Stebbins player fell on one of his legs as he was sliding.
Sophomore Logan Davis took over at quarterback, and the squad managed to pick up one first down. But Sidney stalled and turned the ball over on downs with 2:10 left after the consecutive dropped passes.
Sidney burned its remaining timeouts and forced Stebbins into a third down, but Norton broke free on a run with 1:43 left to secure the result.
The Yellow Jackets looked to be pulling away before halftime.
Jy Foster-Wheeler intercepted a Stebbins pass at Sidney’s 48-yard line with 6:29 left in the second quarter, and the team drove and scored on an 8-yard pass from Herron to Foster-Wheeler with 1:47 left to take a 20-6 lead.
But Sidney couldn’t hold onto the lead in the last seconds of the quarter.
The Indians quickly drove and scored when Xavier Dozier threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Konnor Weaver with 47 seconds left. A two-point conversion try was no good, but the gap was cut to 20-12.
Weaver spiked the ball after the touchdown, and Doenges elected for the penalty to be assessed on the kickoff. The Yellow Jackets fielded the ball at midfield and tried to move it late.
But Herron had a pass intercepted by Lavell Lyles, who returned to inside the 10, and Norton ran in from 2 yards out with 15 seconds left. Norton then ran in on a two-point conversion try to tie it 20-20 at halftime.
“We put ourselves in a good position to get the ball back there with a little bit left in the half, and it was my call to go for it,” Doenges said. “We had three timeouts and felt pretty good with what we were doing on offense.
“We had a nice play, a release in the backfield, something we normally don’t do. Tucker got a little bit more pressure in his face than he wanted, so he had to get rid of it faster, and give credit to (Lyles). He stayed home and made a really nice play on it.
“It put us in a bad position at halftime, but the kids did a nice job of bouncing back and not lamenting on it. They played hard all the way to the end.”
It’s the fifth close game in four years the two programs have played.
Sidney scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to pull away to a 35-20 win last season, but the Indians won the first three matchups between the programs.
Sidney will wrap up regular-season play by hosting undefeated Xenia next Friday.
“They’re good. They’re 9-0 and state-ranked for a reason,” Doenges said. “It’s exciting to play those kind of games. We have 14 seniors who will have their last home game. We’ve got to make the best of the situation. I expect everybody to show up next week and continue to practice hard like we have been.”
Herron completed 15-of-25 passes for 166 yards with three TDs and one interception.
Sam Reynolds caught eight passes for 121 yards with two touchdowns while Julius Spradling caught five passes for 39 yards and one TD and also threw a TD pass to Reynolds. Martez Harris ran for 107 yards on 15 carries.
Vordemark led the squad with 11 tackles.
Norton ran for 166 yards and three TDs on 11 carries and caught two passes for 39 yards.
Sidney went three-and-out on its first drive, and the Indians drove and scored on a short touchdown run by Lavell Lyles with 7:18 left in the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the gap at 6-0.
After the squads traded punts, Sidney got going on offense.
Herron threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Reynolds along the home sideline with 2:23 left. After two penalties on the extra-point attempt, Vordemark made the third try to give Sidney a 7-6 lead.
Sidney blocked a mishandled punt late in the quarter and scored shortly after. Spradling took a handoff from Herron, ran right and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Reynolds with 44 seconds to boost the lead to 14-6.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.