SIDNEY — Sidney quarterback Andre Gordon has been a big part of the team’s 3-0 start. But if the Yellow Jackets want to improve to 4-0 on Friday, they’ll likely have to win without him.
Sidney coach Adam Doenges said he doesn’t expect Gordon to play on Friday when Sidney travels to Xenia for a Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game.
Gordon threw for 462 yards and four touchdowns in Sidney’s first three games and ran for 150 yards and three scores. He was removed from last Friday’s game against Carroll after suffering an injury to his left shoulder.
Doenges said Gordon has had an MRI, but no results have been returned yet. The Yellow Jackets will also be without starting defensive end Joey Bishop, who suffered a knee injury in the first half on Friday. Doenges said Bishop is waiting for test results on his knee.
It’s a situation Sidney is familiar with. Gordon missed the final nine games last season after breaking his left wrist. He was one of several players who missed many weeks due to injuries, which prompted Doenges and Sidney’s coaching staff to make changes to practice methods in the offseason. In addition to conditioning changes, backups are playing more in practice.
“You don’t want to see any guys go down, but any point when a guy goes down, we’ve done a good enough job in the offseason and we’re a veteran enough team to handle it,” Doenges said. “We were fortunate this offseason to get the backups in a little more. Last year, we were a pretty young team across the board, and we were concentrating on those first team guys that were getting reps for the first time. This year, we’ve got a lot of returning starters and have had the freedom to get some backups in during practice.”
Sophomore Ryan Dunham is expected to start in Gordon’s place. Dunham completed 2-of-12 passing attempts for 29 yards against Carroll, including a touchdown pass to Ratez Roberts in the third quarter. Dunham has taken the majority of practice reps the previous three weeks, including while Gordon was recovering from a minor ankle injury.
“I think we’ll be all right,” Doenges said. “Ryan Dunham’s stepped up pretty well. …We were fortunate enough to have him get some good game reps last week. It was still a close game when he came in; we weren’t blowing them out by any stretch of the imagination. He got some quality reps in a high-pressure situation in front of a big crowd, a great home crowd.
“I think he’s gotten the jitters out of the way. We’ve pared down the play book a little bit and picked out stuff we think is going to work to his skill set.”
Xenia opened the season with lopsided losses to Beavercreek, Troy and Alter. The Knights had a 35-3 lead in the fourth quarter last Friday before Xenia scored two touchdowns to narrow the final score to 42-19.
Former Stebbins coach Trace Smitherman is in his first year at Xenia. The Buccaneers are running the triple-option offense Smitherman used at Stebbins. They’ve averaged 155 offensive yards per game the first three weeks, the least of any GWOC team.
Sidney defensive lineman Devan Rogers said the offense presents an unusual challenge.
“It’s something new,” Rogers said. “We haven’t seen it before… We prepare for each team the same way. We don’t look at anybody different. We don’t look at the record, we stay focused. We’ve got to stay focused against these guys to stay rolling.”
Running back Sincere Wells has led Xenia’s offense so far with 222 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Xenia has one of Ohio’s best college prospects in senior receiver Meechi Harris, who has offers from Michigan State, Kentucky and Cincinnati among others. Harris has five receptions to his credit.
“They’re a big-play offense and have some good speed on the offensive side of the ball,” Doenges said. “When you’re keyed on the run too much, they can get it to (Harris). He’s an athlete. He’ll be back there returning kicks and that kind of stuff. Even if the ball’s not kicked to him, they’ll turn it around and toss it to him. He’s a threat when he plays defense, too, because he can cover a lot of ground really, really quick.”
Sidney, which was ranked No. 10 in Division II in the first weekly Associated Press state poll, has thrived on offense with Gordon and Isaiah Bowser running the show. The Yellow Jackets have averaged 505 yards per game, the most of any GWOC team.
Rogers said though the team will miss Gordon, he doesn’t expect much of a drop off with Dunham directing the offense.
“We’ll miss him for sure, but we trust our second-string quarterback,” Rogers said. “He’s been getting the same amount of reps in practice as Dre does, so we trust him.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.