By Bryant Billing
SIDNEY — Ryan Cagle played on special teams for Sidney last year, but he’s emerged through the first two games this season as one of the team’s best defensive players.
Cagle has had to learn on the run in the first two weeks while Sidney (2-0) faced high-powered offenses in St. Marys and Bellefontaine. He and the rest of Sidney’s defense will try to turn that experience into a better performance this Friday when the team wraps up nonconference play at Memorial Stadium against Dayton Carroll.
“We’ve just got to bring the high intensity and play as a team,” Cagle said. “They’re a hard-nosed team and are about 50/50 running and passing. I think we learned a lot from playing (St. Marys and Bellefontaine) and we’ll be ready for any other good teams we face.”
Cagle has 19 tackles through the first two weeks and sacked Bellefontaine quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus last week. It was one of few times Lyburtus was on the ground — he had 483 total yards of offense and had a hand in four of the Chieftains’ touchdowns.
“I just did my job and waited at the line of scrimmage like my coach told me to do,” Cagle said of the sack. “He just came at me, and I just put him on the ground.”
Though Bellefontaine had 554 yards of offense and St. Marys had 398, Sidney’s defense came up with crucial stops in the fourth quarter of both games. Sidney forced a turnover on downs and intercepted a pass in Bellefontaine’s last two drives.
Cagle said he thinks the team’s conditioning has made the difference late in games.
“We’ve just been playing together and working hard,” Cagle said. “Our big thing is that we’re really just conditioned as a team. That’s how we’re able to hold them at key moments.”
Sidney coach Adam Doenges said the emphasis for the defense is limiting big plays. St. Marys and Bellefontaine each scored two touchdowns on plays 39 yards or longer.
Aside from that, Doenges said he’s been pleased with the defense’s performance.
“The thing I took away from the St. Marys game is we were physical, and we still played physical last week,” Doenges said. “We just had a really good athlete that we had to do some things against. I don’t think there’s an athlete like that on Carroll’s team, but they’re pretty sound offensively.”
Running back Isaiah Bowser has helped lead Sidney’s offense, which accumulated over 450 yards in both games. Bowser has rushed for 526 yards and five touchdowns and has 128 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
“The crazy thing is, I still think we’re leaving some points on the board,” Doenges said. “We’ve got the ability to score on every possession.”
Carroll opened the season with a 27-12 win over Stebbins and lost 44-14 to Beavercreek last Friday. Beavercreek scored four touchdowns in the last eight minutes to turn a 16-14 game into a blowout.
Sidney beat the Patriots 49-25 last season.
“They’re better than last year,” Doenges said. “We had a pretty good game against them, but it was tight here and there. They’re improved though, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They’re going to give us a little bit of a different look from the last two weeks.”
Doenges said Sidney quarterback Andre Gordon is still rehabbing from an ankle injury and isn’t at full strength. Though Doenges said Gordon still lacks his usual mobility, he was pleased with how he performed against Bellefontaine. Gordon threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was a blessing in disguise I guess,” Doenges said. “He couldn’t use his legs but he was forced to sit in the pocket, which is something we’ve been working with him on. He has a tendency to get happy feet. He was able to sit in the pocket and throw some pretty good balls for us.”
Gordon a target for Cincinnati: Though Gordon hasn’t received a scholarship offer from Cincinnati, the Bearcats may have foreshadowed an offer.
Cincinnati sent a letter to Gordon last week to inform him he’s a “priority prospect” for the Class of 2019. Gordon posted the letter on Twitter which reads, “Our coaching staff has identified you as one of the most outstanding high school football players in the entire nation and we would like to begin the process of recruiting you to become a member of our football program.”
The letter is signed by Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell. It’s one of several letters sent out by the university to prospective players in the last week. Troy running back Sam Jackson posted a similar letter on Twitter on Tuesday.
Gordon was offered a football scholarship by Iowa State as a freshman. He picked up four basketball offers last summer, all from Ohio universities.