SIDNEY — Sidney’s 27-point loss to Troy last Friday may prove costly to the team’s Greater Western Ohio Conference title hopes. But if the loss can teach the Yellow Jackets where to improve heading into the final two weeks, it may lessen the initial blow players felt on Friday.
“Everyone says if you lose one and get that out of the way, it can be a good thing,” senior Caleb Harris said. “It’s a reality check. We’ve just got to bounce back and be ready for Butler.”
Sidney will try to show improvement this Friday at Vandalia-Butler in a GWOC American North game, which has big playoff implications.
The Yellow Jackets (7-1, 2-1 GWOC North) can clinch a playoff berth with a win according to Drew Pasteur’s Fantastic50.net and would be in good position for a first-round home game with a victory.
Against Troy, Sidney got to see of what a playoff opponent is likely to look like. The Trojans (6-2, 3-0) made the playoffs last season and, like Sidney, are in good shape for a postseason berth this season in Division II, Region 8.
Harris, a junior wide receiver and safety, caught two touchdown passes against Troy and had an interception. He said the team is determined not to let the loss be the start of a losing streak.
“We knew it was going to be a heck of a fight,” Harris said. “Everybody playing, we just couldn’t get the job done. But now we know what it takes (in the playoffs).”
What won’t work in the playoffs according to coach Adam Doenges is the having five turnovers like Sidney did against Troy. The Yellow Jackets had three fumbles and two interceptions, as well as a blocked punt that set up a Troy touchdown drive.
“Offensively, we’re just going to have to play better,” Doenges said. “When we went back and watched film, we saw some mental mistakes. In the past when we made a mental mistake, we were still able to out-athlete them and still be able to get back to the line of scrimmage and turn it into a 5-yard gain or a 10-yard gain.”
Troy’s defensive line and linebackers were able to break through to the backfield and repeatedly rush quarterback Andre Gordon. The Yellow Jackets will have another tough defensive front seven to play against this week in Butler.
The Aviators (3-4, 1-2 GWOC North) rank near the bottom in the GWOC in yards allowed per game (379) but are in the top half in points (18.3). Butler’s strength comes from a massive defensive line that is anchored by 6-foot-3, 250-point junior Quentin Glover, who has five sacks and 50 tackles.
“Their defensive line is about as big as you’re ever going to see for a high school team,” Doenges said. “They’re enormous on the defensive line. They can really plug some stuff up up the middle, and as usual, they’ve got some good, physical linebackers that can flow pretty hard to the ball. We’re going to have another test. It’s not a bad defense by any stretch of the imagination.”
Butler is balanced on offense. Junior quarterback Mason Motter has thrown for 1,414 yards and 13 touchdowns, while senior running back Logan Flatt has run for 981 yards and 14 touchdowns.
One of Doenges’ biggest concerns is Butler receiver Bryant Johnson, who has caught 19 passes for 573 yards with 10 touchdowns.
“He’s a big-play receiver. Long, with 4.5- or 4.6-speed,” Doenges said. “He’s got potential to be a Division I athlete some day as a receiver. He’s got some pretty good ball skills, so we’re going to have our work cut out there. Then Logan Flatt, he’s not as big as some of the running backs we’ve seen, but he’s falling forward. He might be the hardest-running running back that we have.”
The four teams Butler has lost to (Massilon Perry, Wilmington, Troy, Piqua) have a combined record of 23-9. Doenges said the Aviators will be a good opportunity for Sidney to show improvement against a quality opponent.
And if Sidney is able to improve because of the Troy loss, Doenges said it can be a benefit heading into the postseason.
“It was a good learning experience,” Doenges said. “We had to learn how to step back and look at ourselves a little more clearly. We weren’t playing by any means perfect football up to that point. But when you’re winning, I think as coaches and as players you just start to keep plugging along.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t getting better or playing hard during practice, I just think when you lose it changes the mindset more to, ‘Okay, we’re definitely not as good as we could be.’ It makes you think about it that much more and look at yourself in the mirror and ask what you can do differently. We adjusted things a little this week in practice, and as coaches and as players, we’re focused on fixing things and bouncing back.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow at @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.