PIQUA — For Sidney’s players and coaches, Friday’s 34-33 win over Piqua in front of a packed Alexander Stadium wasn’t just a victory against a rival. It was a statement to every other area school and community about the makeup of Sidney.
Though the Yellow Jackets (6-0, 1-0 GWOC American North) were ranked sixth in the state in Division II in last week’s AP poll, running back Isaiah Bowser and coach Adam Doenges said many team members heard from people outside the town that the players don’t work hard enough and are overrated.
Bowser said the team has heard the same sentiment for years and was ready to prove any doubters wrong.
“It’s all about toughness,” Bowser said. “Everyone says were not tough enough, we don’t work hard enough, all this stuff. They don’t respect us. We need some respect around here. We’re good.”
Doenges said it was a defining win as far as the team’s character is concerned.
“We talk with our kids all the time about what people perceive of our town,” Doenges said. “We brought it up back in May and brought it up again this week. Those kids took it upon themselves. They want to change that perception.
“They took it on their 16, 17, 18-year shoulders to change the perception of this town. We said it back in May and we said it again this week about being resilient, not falling under pressure, and being able to handle adversity through life. Those are all things people have said about our community, but our guys showed what we have tonight and backed us up.”
The game was full of big plays for Sidney, one of which came late in the fourth from Andre Gordon and Ratez Roberts. On a fourth-and-goal from the 21-yard line, Gordon threw a touchdown pass to Roberts which broke a tie and gave Sidney a 34-27 lead.
“I give Coach (Greg) Snyder a lot of credit,” Doenges said of the touchdown pass. “We had a play called, and he said let’s switch it to this, get them rolling out and peak to the backside post and whip it in there if it’s there. It was a great call, a great throw, and a great catch by Ratez to hold onto it.
“I’m real proud of my two coordinators. The defense played tough tonight. I don’t know what the yardage was, but we played tough and we played well. Coach (Kyle) Coleman has done a tremendous job the last couple of weeks trying to get our kids in the best position.”
Piqua’s Ben Schmiesing scored on a 2-yard run with 45 seconds left to cut the lead to one, but Bowser and Sidney’s defense came up with another big play to preserve the win.
Schmiesing got the ball on a two-point conversion run, and Bowser broke through the backfield and brought Schmiesing down by the legs.
“We knew it was going to be a game of ups-and-downs,” Doenges said. “We were able to handle it. This one is for the community.”
Sidney’s players celebrated with a large student section on the field after the game and hoisted the Battered Helmet in a postgame huddle. It’s only the third win for Sidney over Piqua in the last 15 seasons, but it’s the second in the last three.
Bowser and the rest of Sidney’s seniors are a part of the first class in 36 years to beat Piqua twice in four seasons.
“This feels great,” Bowser said. “We’ve got some tough games coming up, but Piqua’s one of the toughest we’ll face. This was a tough GWOC game for us, and I’m glad we could come out on top.
“ …I love beating Piqua. I don’t know if it felt just as good as tonight, but it felt really good sophomore year (a 17-14 win) too. It always feels good beating Piqua.”
Bowser rushed for 186 yards on 38 carries. Gordon completed 11-of-14 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 87 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. His touchdown run was one of several times he extended plays on scrambles.
“Dre’s definitely the best quarterback in the GWOC,” Bowser said. “He can throw, he can run, he creates plays when the line’s folding. Dre’s really good; he definitely brings a lot to us.”
Devan Rogers and Ryan Cagle led the Yellow Jackets with six tackles each, while Zach Webb had a sack. Caleb Harris recovered a fumble, and Darren Taborn had an interception.
Sidney had 418 yards of offense while Piqua had 379. Schmiesing had 119 yards on 13 carries, while Devon Brown had 83 yards on 20 carries. Austin Davis completed 12-of-19 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
A big play from Bowser with 19 seconds left in the second quarter gave Sidney a 21-7 lead. Bowser couldn’t come up with a handoff at the 1-yard line, and the ball bounced into the end zone. Bowser fell on the ball to score the touchdown.
“The handoff hit my elbow and fell right in front of me,” Bowser said. “I had no clue where the ball was. I just dove. I didn’t even know I was on it. I was just feeling around and finally felt it on my stomach.”
Sidney is 6-0 for the first time since 1996. The program hasn’t started a season with seven consecutive wins since 1974.
“I was hoping we would be this good, but it’s hard because Sidney hasn’t been this good in a long time,” Bowser said. “I knew we had the potential. We worked hard all offseason. Coming in and beating St. Marys the first game, we just took off from there.”
Sidney continues a tough opening stretch next Thursday at Memorial Stadium against Tippecanoe, who lost 28-13 to Troy in a GWOC North opener on Friday. Bowser said the team doesn’t want to disappoint the city against the Red Devils (3-3), which won last year’s matchup by 10 points.
“The city’s behind us,” Bowser said. “We saw the fans were deeper here tonight than Piqua’s fans. They’re here, they’re loud, and they’re going to travel with us the rest of the year. The whole city’s excited.”
Thursday’s game against Tippecanoe will be broadcast live as a part of Fox 45’s Thursday Night Lights on channel 45.2 and online on mytvdayton.com.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.