Sidney head football coach Adam Doenges heads into the 2015 football season with optimism — a lot of optimism.
“I’ve been telling people, this is by far the best preseason in the five years I’ve been here,” he said. “There’s a new sense of urgency from the guys, and great senior leadership. And we feel we have a great blend of talented seniors and young players.
“We only did two scrimmages as opposed to three,” he added. “I felt this was a good year to change that. In the past, a lot of kids were not varsity ready, but back in January I kinda thought this is a veteran team and we don’t need a third scrimmage to get ourselves ready for the physicalness of the game. I thought we played really physical in both our scrimmages, maybe more than we ever have.”
He has 19 seniors on this year’s team.
“As opposed to last year, we have a large grop of seniors,” he said. “And they have a lot of varsity experience. Six or seven have been playing since they were sophomores, and Darryl McNeal has been playing since he was a freshman. They know what happens when the lights turn on and how things change a little bit. And we did a lot of offseason stuff in terms of leadership and bonding. We wanted to get the kids to buy into each other, and getting the younger kids to buy into the seniors. On the good teams, the younger guys play for the seniors and not just with the seniors.”
Of course, it remains to be seen if all that can amount to 50 points, because that’s what this year’s Sidney team has to make up against traditional opening-night rival St. Marys. Last year’s game at St. Marys wound up 71-21, and though Doenges said at the time it was a game the Jackets needed to put out of their minds, it hasn’t stopped him from putting the score up on the Sidney Memorial Stadium scoreboard during workouts.
“I guess it’s cruel and unusual punishment,” he said. “But the kids know what it was last year, so there’s no sense hiding from it. We were embarrassed. I didn’t have our team ready. But we’re excited about changing people’s minds this year.”
That St. Marys team went on to finish just 5-5, but that didn’t deter anyone from playing — there are 105 Roughriders out this season.
“They come off the ball so well,” said Doenges, a St. Marys grad. “They’re not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but on the first two seconds of a play, they are as good as anyone. They are relentless on offense and defense and they will try to run it down our throats. We need to get them out of what they do. If they start doing something else, that’s good for us.”
This Roughrider team will be junior-dominated, and the biggest loss to graduation was fullback Isaac Fitzgerald, who averaged 159 yards per game. Unfortunately for the Jackets, Eric Spicer returns. Last year as a sophomore, he rushed for 438 yards against the Yellow Jackets.
Sidney, meanwhile, also has a big hole to fill in the backfield. Eric Barnes, the school’s first 1,000 yard rusher in years, has graduated. Doenges said he expects junior Conor Beer and sophomore Isaiah Bowser will split time in the backfield behind quarterback Jack Feazel.
And look for Doenges to use freshman Andre Gordon whenever he can. “He will be all over the field,” said the coach. “He’s a special athlete.”
And up front, he has two key returnees in 6-foot-4, 317-pound Lorenzo Taborn and 5-11, 200-pound Devin Santos. McNeal, 5-11, 180, is a real playmaker and Doenges said teams will be keying on him. McNeal caught a team-high 49 passes last season, second in the area during the regular season.
NOTE: Some of the Sidney High football season tickets have 7:30 listed as the game time. Fans are reminded that all Sidney home games start at 7:00.
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818