Big Defensive Effort Propels Sidney to Win
SIDNEY--The Red Raiders got back to the playoffs this season, and ran the ball at will and hit timely passes while their defense bottled up the Gothenburg Swede's attack in a 28-to-14 in the first round of the Class C1 NSAA State Football Championship Tournament on Friday, October 27.
It was a chilly late October night in Sidney, with cold winds keeping the temperatures below freezing. The game started in a stalemate, with Gothenburg receiving the ball first, and the Sidney defense shutting their attack down, forcing a punt. Gothenburg returned the favor, plugging up the holes in the line and shutting down Sidney's rushing attack and forcing a punt. Gothenburg again tried to move the ball, but the Raider defense shut them down, forcing a punt. On Sidney's second drive they started to move the ball and pick up first downs. Senior quarterback Isak Doty then broke open a big run to bring Sidney into Gothenburg territory. A few plays later, Sidney called an off-tackle run with Doty, and with senior running back Luke Holly leading the way, the Raiders blasted through the corner of the end zone and put up their first touchdown. A failed extra point put the score at 6-to-0.
Gothenburg then got their offense going, and started to gain first downs. They moved the ball down the field on the Sidney defense, and sophomore running back Evan Johnson broke open a 20 yard run. With a first and goal at the Sidney 10 yard line, the Swedes tried a pass to the end zone, but Sidney junior Landon Riddle intercepted the ball and pushed it out to the five yard line, ending the Swedes drive. Sidney started their drive deep in their own territory, but quickly got out from under the shadow of their own goal post. Near mid-field, Doty connected with Riddle on a long pass, perfectly timed to hit Riddle in stride, and he pulled away from the Gothenburg defenders for a 57 yard touchdown gallop. Sidney went for two points and converted, giving the Red Raiders a 14-to-0 lead. The defense again shut down Gothenburg, and with time running down in the first half, the Red Raiders had one more opportunity to score, but on 4th down and 2 and the 10 yard line, an incomplete pass ended the half with Sidney up 14-to-0. Sidney had 225 yards of offense in the half, while their defense limited Gothenburg to just 84 yards of offense.
Sidney started the second half with the ball, and kept their running game going. Luke Holly blasted through big holes made by the Sidney offensive line, gaining first downs nearly every time he carried the ball. Sidney marched down the field, deep into the Swedes territory, with a combination of runs and passes. Riddle did an outstanding job going up and over Gothenburg defenders to grab passes. Then Doty turned a 2nd and 5 yard play from a no gain into a first down by reversing his field while scrambling, and running the ball down to the three yard line. On first and goal, Holly rushed around the end and dove for the goal line pylon, hit it, and scored a touchdown, moving the score to 21-to-0.
Gothenburg's offense finally showed some life as they were able to drive on their next possession and score a touchdown, and with a two-point conversion, the Sidney lead was narrowed to 21-to-8. Sidney fired right back, methodically driving the field on a 14 play drive capped by a two yard Holly touchdown plunge, which took over seven minutes off the game clock, and effectively ended the game. Down 28-to-8, Gothenburg responded with another drive highlighted by a 31 yard pass reception and after a failed conversion attempt, were able to score to narrow the lead to 28-to-14. With only about three minutes left in regulation, the Swedes had to try an onside kick, and Sidney recovered at midfield. The Swedes got the defensive stop they needed, but on fourth down Doty punted and was roughed by junior Caden Neels, giving Sidney the ball back. Sidney ran down the clock on four plays, giving the ball back to Gothenburg with just 16 seconds left deep in their own territory. One play later, the game was over, and Sidney had a 28-to-14 win, and advances to the next round of the playoffs.
Sidney's offense was able to run the ball due to another stellar performance by the offensive line, and Sidney's defense bottling up the Swede's offense in the first half proved to be the difference in the contest. Doty had another great game, completing 7 of 8 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, and rushed 25 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Holly was a workhorse for the offense, carrying the ball 25 times for 149 yard and two touchdowns. Riddle grabbed five passes for 89 yards and a touchdown and had an interception. Sophomore Ben Monheiser was all over the field on defense, racking up 14 total tackles in the win.
Sidney hosts the Pierce Bluejays on Friday, and the 8-and-2 Bluejays are a run-first team with a strong offensive line. Senior standout Keenan Valverde is their best offensive weapon, and he has been running through defenses all season, averaging about 175 yards per game rushing. The Sidney defense will face their biggest test of the year containing the Pierce rushing attack, while the Bluejays will have their hands full with the two-headed monster of Doty and Holly rushing for Sidney. Good weather is forecast for the game, with mid-50's temperatures and clear skies. Sidney will be greatly tested in this game, and the defense will need to be sharp and fast to contain the Pierce rushing attack.