MIAMISBURG — Sidney coach Adam Doenges knew it would take a perfect effort for Sidney to beat Cincinnati La Salle in a Division II, Region 8 semifinal on Friday night at Miamisburg’s Holland Field.
The three-time defending Div. II state champion Lancers had won 16 consecutive playoff games before Friday’s game, including three last season by margins of 28 points or greater.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t get that perfect performance and became the latest running clock victim of La Salle in a 41-6 loss. The Lancers won an opening round playoff game by a 35-point margin.
“I think about 14 of (their playoff victories) have been running clocks, too,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “They’re good, there’s no doubt about it. They’re well-coached with phenomenal players across the board. They took advantage of us early in the game and had a great game plan.
“We’ve got a lot of two-way guys with worn out bodies this time of year, and they’re strictly two-platoon. They were able to capitalize on us.”
La Salle jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead over Sidney. The Lancers finished with a 438 total yards of offense while Sidney had 153, most of which came in the second half.
The season will go down as one of the best in Sidney’s history. The Yellow Jackets (10-2) made the playoffs for only the second time in school history and set numerous offensive records, several of which were set by senior Isaiah Bowser. Bowser, a Northwestern commit, set single season records for rushing yards, carries and total touchdowns among others.
Bowser is one of 18 seniors the team will lose to graduation.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Doenges said. “We’ve had a tremendous turnaround, going from back-to-back 0-10 seasons when they were in fifth and sixth grade when bad things are happening in the school district, pay-t0-play is bad, teachers are leaving the district, and financially it’s just not a good situation.
“Those kids bought into our program and what we tried to do when they were seventh grade and very easily could have done something else, like left or not played sports or moved. But the kids and their parents bought in for the long haul. I’m extremely proud of these kids to still be here and to see to some good things happen. I’ve had a great time being around these kids the last six, seven years.”
Sidney’s offense couldn’t get going against La Salle’s defense. Sidney had 65 yards of offense on 26 plays in the first half, while La Salle had 365 yards on 50 plays. Bowser had 25 rushing yards at halftime on 10 carries.
Sidney managed three first downs in the first half and had a fumble.
“We needed to be clean the whole game, and obviously we weren’t,” Doenges said. “They do a nice job with their lines on both sides. Belmont is fast, but they’re football fast. They’re just extremely fast on the line and with their linebackers.”
La Salle (10-2) dominated from the kickoff. The Lancers scored on their first drive on a 11-yard pass from Griffin Merritt to Jake Roberts. Jake Seibert missed an extra point attempt, but La Salle led 6-0 with 10:17 left in the first quarter.
Zack Webb recovered a fumble for Sidney after the first touchdown but the Yellow Jackets were forced to punt after one first down.
“We had our opportunities, but they’re just good across the board,” Doenges said. “They make you play 11-on-11. If you don’t play 11-on-11, they’re going to capitalize on it. Every play, they’ve got 11 guys doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Siebert caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from Merritt with 5:37 left and kicked the extra point to boost the lead to 13-0.
The Lancers struck with eight minutes left in the second quarter on a 9-yard run by Cameron Porter and then scored a little over three minutes later on a 20-yard touchdown reception by Roberts on a pass from Merritt.
Merritt threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Siebert right before halftime to extend La Salle’s lead to 34-0.
La Salle scored on a 7-yard run by Kevin Howard with 11:39 left in the third quarter, and Sidney scored on a 1-yard pass from Andre Gordon to Kelton Stockton with 6:23 left.
Gordon completed 7-of-14 passes for 90 yards and ran for seven yards on seven carries. Bowser finished with 67 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Merritt threw for 184 yards, while Porter rushed for 88 and Devon Campbell rushed for 75 for La Salle.
La Salle advances to face Cincinnati Winton Woods in a D-II regional final next Friday. Winton Woods, which beat La Salle 18-15 in a nonconference game in regular season, advanced to the regional final with a 52-21 shellacking of Cincinnati Anderson on Friday. Anderson beat Troy 33-0 in a first-round playoff game.
“I think people kind of need to realize our region from top-to-bottom is unbelievable,” Doenges said. “Obviously it has had the state champ the last three years, and I think it’s going to have the state champ again. It’s really good region, and I’m proud of our kids to make it this far.”
Now that Sidney’s players know what it takes to make the playoffs, Doenges said the goal is to prepare for a longer playoff run in future seasons.
“Now they’ve got to realize what it takes to get past this point,” Doenges said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do this offseason.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.