Nearly fifty years after the zenith of Sidney football, the Yellow Jackets have emerged to again invigorate the community and rekindle memories of days when losing was out of the question.
One is…good things come to those who wait.
The other is…why has it taken so long?
The Yellow Jackets and football are again the buzzword in Sidney in 2017, after nearly a 50-year hiatus from the glory days of 1968, ’69, and ’70, and those glorious undefeated teams after which the modern playing field at Memorial Stadium is named…30-0.
There was a time, and I remember it well, being a student at Piqua High School, when a date with Sidney was an automatic ‘L’ on your record. Coached by Dave Haines, and anchored with size and speed on both sides of the football, the Jackets simply ran past and ran over opponents in what was then the old Miami Valley League.
By the way, Piqua had some good teams back then under coach Chuck Asher, with Craig Clemons and Dave Gallagher, both of whom went on to Big Ten careers and time in the NFL. But it didn’t matter towards the outcome with Sidney. Sidney had the goods, they knew how to win, and worked it to monotonous perfection.
Shop windows downtown were adorned with Yellow Jackets photos and gear.
Signs were up all over the city.
A ticket at old Julia Lamb Stadium was a tough buy. Most home games sold out early in the week. By Friday if you wanted to go to the game…you had to know somebody.
But there’s another saying that came to pass after the magical period of consecutive wins, and civic pride that was city-wide…what goes around comes around. And for whatever reason it struck Sidney.
Dave Haines left. The cycle of athletes that determines every successful run in high school sports turned empty. And as quickly as city pride arose to proclaim dominance in black and yellow…just as quickly it diminished as losing records and anonymity came to pass.
There were those seasons, however, when things would ebb to a 5-5 record, or 6-4.
But there were more 2-8s, and 3-7s, and by the year 2000, and soon thereafter with the inception of the modern GWOC Conference, the Yellow Jackets were barely competitive with the likes of other conference kings – Northmont, Butler, Troy, and Piqua.
That 2000 year saw the ‘Jackets go 1-9, and it didn’t get substantially better as coaches came, and coaches left. Things bottomed out, it seemed, in 2010, and ’11, when in back-to-back seasons they went 0-10. Someone joked at the time, “They’ve gone from 30-0 to 0-20.”
In 2015, when current coach Adam Doenges squeezed out a 6-4 record, it was a hoped-for sign. But just as quickly, a year later when starting quarterback Andre Gordon and his backup were both sidelined with season-ending fractures, hope, for the moment, was extinguished.
But this is now – 2017 – with a healthy Gordon and the league’s top running back, Isaiah Bowser. Entering Thursday’s game with Tipp City, the Northwestern University recruit had registered 1,634 yards, 19 touchdowns, and had three games of 300 yards rushing, or more. He rang up 413 against Xenia three weeks ago. And Thursday night against struggling Tipp City, he rang up another 260 yards to pace the ‘Jackets to a thrilling 49-42 win, their seventh in a row…the first time to open a season with seven consecutive wins since 1974!
They don’t play like Dave Haines teams anymore. They spread the field, play up-tempo, throw in a ‘flea-flicker’ here and there, and simply outscore people. They even have a female placekicker, sophomore Hallie Truesdale, who hit on all five over her extra point attempts in Thursday’s win over Tipp.
And frankly, they don’t play defense like Haines, either. Nor do they seem concerned.
“We knew we were going to put up a lot of points tonight,” said Bowser of the Tipp win, a back-and-forth affair that he took into his own hands with a 75-yard game deciding touchdown. “It wasn’t pretty, but the offense made plays and the defense made a stop when we needed it. It’s good to be 7-0.”
Doenges has his own perspective on a defense that at times resembles a matador waving the cape at a passing bull.
“You know, we make so many plays on offense,” says Doenges, “…and we score so quickly sometimes that the defense is always out there on the field. Sometimes more than it should be.”
But somehow they escaped with their unbeaten streak intact Thursday, despite the effort of Tipp’s Cole Barhorst, who put up 330 all-purpose yards…in a losing effort!
“We do keep it interesting, obviously,” said athletic director Mitch Hoying. “We have a couple of issues defensively.”
A COUPLE of issues?
“But offensively we lead the free world in big plays,” laughs Hoying. “It’s a lot of fun, the crowd was great tonight, the atmosphere was great for the kids.”
And make no mistake, kids, coaches, and the community are all loving this snippet of time, a veritable back-to-the-future experience. The ‘Jackets are ranked #6 in Division II OHSAA football this week.
“It is fun” adds Doenges. “You certainly can’t compare it to the 30-0 teams back then, and I don’t even know how many of those guys are still alive. But look around at the extra media attention we’re getting. We’re on Thursday night TV. College coaches are showing up during the week to watch practices. The community’s supporting us, coming out to the games. I know it wasn’t pretty tonight, but 7-0 is 7-0…and we’re 7-0.”
Haines would have rolled his eyes, perhaps – the thought of having to score 49 points to win, when you give up 42. But give some credit to Tippecanoe, as well, as did Adam Doenges. It’s simply a different game now than it was in 1968.
And Big Buys at “The Spot” were a fraction of what they are now. But they taste the same, and that’s all that matters. It’s the journey, for the time, that counts.
From 30-0, to 0-20, to 7-0.
Good things have come…to those who waited!