Sidney’s 6-4 record in 2015 was the school’s first winning record in 13 years. Now, with returning starters at every skill position on offense, and a vastly improved defense, the Yellow Jackets have bigger goals for this season, and beyond.
Sidney – A lot of things can change in a year. Ask the Sidney Yellow Jackets if you doubt.
The Jackets were coming off a 2-8 season in 2014 a summer ago, with question marks on both sides of the ball. This year, the Jackets will try to follow up their first winning season in 13 years with plenty of young talent returning on both offense and defense.
“Our goals have certainly changed,” said 6th year head coach Adam Doenges as he relaxed in the coaches’ office at Sidney Memorial Stadium Wednesday afternoon. “Last year was all about getting that winning record. This year, we want to win the GWOC North.
“Someone different is going to win the division for the first time in who knows how long because of Trotwood’s moving to another division. We want to be the team that takes it over. The playoffs are out there too, but I think if we win the GWOC North, the playoffs will take care of themselves.
“Last year was interesting because our offensive MVP was a freshman, and our defensive MVP was a sophomore. But last year was really about our 18 seniors. Lorenzo Taborn is at Bowling Green on a full ride, Darryl McNeal will play at Cincinnati Christian, which is NAIA, and we had a bunch of guys who just bought in to what we were trying to do. We hope that senior class was the one that turned things around here.”
Doenges knows that with last year’s success with a young roster expectations for 2016 will be that much higher.
“Every team wants to win championships, but we have had seasons where the goal was to win one or two. You don’t tell your kids that, but you just focus day by day. Now, the expectations are bigger, and you have to be careful how you handle that with kids who have never had that before. Neither the coaches or players have had those high expectations before. You want to be confident, but you still have to stay grounded and take care of the day to day stuff.”
Sidney has already attracted the college recruiters, as three players already have Division one offers. Quarterback Andre Gordon has an offer from Iowa State, lineman Devin Rogers has been offered by Bowling Green, and running back Isaiah Bowser is being courted by Cincinnati.
The Yellow Jackets roster is still dominated by underclassmen.
“We are still really young,” the coach agreed. “We have 90 guys in grades 9 through 12, and 15 of them are seniors. A lot of those seniors are going to play on Friday night, but the bulk of the load, the heavy lifting, is going to be done by our sophomores and juniors. Our seniors are going to have to understand that and rely on those younger players. I think this senior class will do that.”
Sidney had one of the more diverse offenses in the area last season, led by freshman quarterback Gordon. He completed 65% of his passes for 1,343 yards a year ago, ran for 868 yards, and accounted for 22 touchdowns. His coach thinks Gordon will be even better this year.
“Andre is a special kid. You could tell when he was in the fourth or fifth grade that he was gifted athletically, but as he has gotten older he has become a real leader. We had a returning quarterback last year, so Andre did not get a lot of reps during the summer. This year, he knows it’s his team. He also picks things up quickly, so with a full year under his belt, we expect him to be better. And he expects to be better as well.
“He’s smart, and he knows that he is going to be a leader for this school for the next three years. We have taught him a lot about the game and he really soaks that up. He also knows that he doesn’t have to do it all himself. We have a lot of weapons he can get the ball to.”
The Jackets also return junior running back Bowser, who rushed for 910 yards and 11 scores last season, senior Connor Beer, who will be a four year starter after running for 419 yards last season, and senior Allec Gordan, the leading returning receiver who had 22 catches for 363 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The defense was a big reason for Sidney’s success last season, going from 418 points allowed to 237, an improvement of 18 points allowed a game.
“Kyle Coleman came in from Paulding as the new defensive coordinator, and he got the kids to buy in to playing defense. Our other defensive coaches also bought in to what he wanted to do, and now they have had a whole year together. We have a lot of players back on that side of the ball and I expect the defense to keep getting better.”
Doenges’ first year in 2011 resulted in an 0-10 record. He said that quality depth has been the biggest improvement in the last 5 years.
“A perfect example is that we have about 9 receivers looking to play 4 spots. There have been years when guys would look over their shoulders and know that there was no one that could beat them out. Competition for positions is at an all-time high and it’s pretty neat to see that every day. Guys pushing guys to get better.”
Sidney has always been a good football town, and Doenges said that has continued despite the on-the-field struggles of the program.
“I have two booster groups that do a great job of supporting the kids. We don’t bicker back and forth like I hear other coaches talking about. I appreciate being around both groups. There are still those ties to the 30-0 era (1968-1970) and it runs deep. We had some tremendous crowds last year and I think they will be bigger this year.
“It’s been that way for a long time, and I always tell the guys that once we start winning football games, this town is going to go bananas. We got a little taste of that last year, and hopefully will get some more this year.”
The GWOC North gets a face-lift this season with Tippecanoe replacing Trotwood. Doenges has high respect for both programs.
“I always liked facing Trotwood. It was always a challenge to beat them and I thought we had a chance last season. But we got off to a terrible start and then played them even the rest of the game. While Tipp is a different team than Trotwood, it’s still a perennial playoff team that gets things done the right way. They are an impressive program, and it doesn’t get easier for us because they are in and Trotwood is out.”
Along with the Red Devils, the Jackets will face Carroll and Xenia as new opponents this year. A highlight will be the annual Battered Helmet game with Piqua, which will be played on Thursday, September 29th at Sidney Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox 45.
“I don’t know if you can make that game bigger,” Doenges said with a laugh. “It’s Piqua. But it will be on Thursday night, we’ll be the only game in town, and if the weather is good, this place will be crazy. It’s our Homecoming as well. We had a nail-biter with them last year (a 17-14 Sidney win) and they are going to be a strong team. It’s a good thing to have to point to at this time of year.”
The season is 7 weeks away, and they are ready in Sidney…thinking. And they’re thinking about winning!