SIDNEY — Perfection isn’t something seen much in high school football — or football at any level. But Sidney offensive lineman Demont Rucker said he saw perfection, or near-perfection, in watching the execution of Troy’s defense in game film earlier this week.
“They’re really aggressive,” Rucker said. “Usually every week, there’s a weak spot or two with the defense we’re playing. There really isn’t one with Troy’s. We’ve just got to be ready for that and play our game.”
Troy travels to Sidney Memorial Stadium on Friday to take on the Yellow Jackets in a key Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division game. Both Sidney (7-0) and Troy (5-2) are tied for first in the North with 2-0 league records.
The Yellow Jackets will try for a repeat performance of the last time Troy played in Sidney. In 2015, Sidney scored the first three touchdowns against the Trojans and racked up 476 yards of offense in a 52-28 win.
Last year’s matchup of the two teams was entirely different. The Trojans held Sidney running back Isaiah Bowser to 51 yards on 26 carries and accumulated 432 yards of offense in a 31-6 win. It’s the only game that Bowser has been held under 100 rushing yards in the last two seasons.
Troy went from 2-8 in 2015 to 10-2 in 2016 with a big turnaround on defense. The Trojans, which were undefeated in the North last year, allowed 15.8 points and 255 yards per game. Most of the team’s defensive starters are back this year.
“They return six guys who were either first or second team all-North division,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “When you return six guys on one side of the ball that were all-division, you’re going to be pretty good.
“This year, they’re still easily as good as a defense as I’ve seen, and really as good as a defense as we’ve seen in awhile.”
Troy’s defense ranks among the best in the GWOC statistically again this season, as does Sidney’s offense. The Yellow Jackets lead the 20-team conference with an average of 499 yards per game and are second with an average of 42.3 points per game. Troy’s defense allows an average of 234 yards per game (third-best in the GWOC) and 20.6 points (ninth-best).
None of the Sidney’s seven opponents have stopped the Yellow Jackets’ offense yet. Bowser has racked up 1,900 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, while quarterback Andre Gordon has thrown for 959 yards and rushed for 394. Receivers Ratez Roberts, Kelton Stockton and Caleb Harris have all had plays 55 yards or longer.
Sidney’s offensive attack will start with the offensive line trying to hold back the Trojans’ defense, and Rucker said the unit is ready for the challenge.
And though bad plays may happen against a good defense, Rucker said the ability to quickly move on is crucial, especially since Sidney has scored on many long plays this season.
“We might have something that hurts ourselves, but we’ve just got to keep pushing and just keep it moving like we have all season,” Rucker said. “At the beginning of the season it was kind of hard for the O-line, but we’re kind of a veteran O-line, and we just talk to each other and get through it if something goes wrong.”
Troy started the season 1-2, with the losses coming to Trotwood-Madison and Bellefontaine. The Trojans have rolled to four straight victories since and have held each their last three opponents (Miamisburg, Tippecanoe, Butler) to 202 yards or less.
A big key of the turnaround has been Troy’s offense. Troy averaged 241 yards and 9.3 points per game in the first three weeks and has averaged 320 yards and 33 points per game in the last four weeks.
“They got on a slow roll at the beginning but I think they’ve kind of found what they’re good at on offense, and it’s the run game and hitting some short passes,” Doenges said. “Then from time-to-time, they’ll do a little play-action and hit you deep.”
Troy quarterback Sam Coleman was a receiver for the Trojans last year. Coleman had a slow start but appears to have progressed well. He completed 33 percent of his passes in the first three weeks of the season with four interceptions, but in the last four weeks he’s completed 54 percent of his passes with two interceptions.
Running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop has rushed for 912 yards and seven touchdowns, the vast majority of which has come in the last five games.
“They’ve figured out what their quarterback is good at doing,” Doenges said. “They’ve got a nice, big senior-laden offensive line, and their main running back (Bishop) is one of the fastest kids in the GWOC.”
The offense may pose a challenge for the Yellow Jackets, who allow an average of 389 yards and 23.3 points per game.
Doenges said he’s been pleased with the defense in practice this week following last Thursday’s 49-42 win over Tippecanoe, during which Sidney gave up 389 yards and a 90-yard kickoff return.
“The saying goes, ‘If you want to continue to win games, you’d better figure out what you’re not good at,’ and we’ve got some things to work on on both sides of the ball, but there’s some things we’ve got to fix on defense,” Doenges said. “We had some tough conversations with kids this week, and some guys just have to start playing better. If we want to keep going on a high trajectory towards the playoffs, we’ve got some improvements to make.”
The game is big for playoff points, especially with Troy and Sidney both in Division II, Region 8. But Doenges said the emphasis this week is knocking off the defending North champions.
“They have something we want,” Doenges said. “Our goal is to win the GWOC North title. Right now, we’re not talking too much about the playoffs or anything along that line. We’re focused on Troy. The only way to get the league title is to go through the current champion, and that’s Troy.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.