Big-Play Raiders Outlast Bluejays, 41-34
Advance To Semi's At Wahoo on Friday
November 9, 2023
SIDNEY--It would be their biggest test of the season, until the next one. Not knowing there would be a "next one" had the Red Raiders players give it their all, pouring out all of their talent and effort in a battle against the Pierce Bluejays that lasted until the final gun. The Red Raiders, riding high on a magical season, get yet another date with destiny on Friday, as their season efforts bring them again to the point where they will face their biggest test. Hopefully, until the next one.
The entire town of Sidney has been following this record-setting season for the Red Raiders, with an unblemished record except for one dropped game, a contest that could have easily went the other way for the Sidney boys. On Thursday, a Caravan circled the main streets of Sidney, with first responders blaring their lights and sirens, and the entire football team, coaches and managers going on a tour of the town on the back of flatbed trailer, provided by Lessman Hay and Straw and the Childers Family Farm. A big crowd of Red Raider supporters occupied strategic locations around the route, and they all let the players know with their horns, whistles and cowbells that they believed in them, and knew they had what it takes to win the big game. And then go on and win a bigger game.
First they had to get past a Pierce Bluejay team that came in with an 8-and-2 record, losing only to what many consider the best two teams in C1, Wahoo and Boone Central. The Bluejays made the long trip seemingly without any ill effects, as they received the opening kickoff and proceeded to steadily march down the field, driving the ball to the one yard line. On first and goal, senior running back Keenan Valverde hopped through a hole in the Sidney defensive line for a score, and after a missed extra point attempt, the visitors were up 6-to-0. Sidney started their first drive backed up on their own 7 yard line, and promptly gave the ball back to Pierce when senior quarterback Isak Doty and senior running back Luke Holly muffed a handoff, and the Bluejays recovered deep in Sidney territory. The Sidney defense held, with help from a holding penalty that pushed Pierce back from the goal line, and forced a turnover on downs. The reprieve gave the Red Raiders the ball back deep in their own territory at the start of the second quarter.
Sidney started their drive and started making headway, until they faced a third down and seven situation on their own 17 yard line. Doty rolled out to his right, and unleashed a deep pass. Junior Landon Riddle went up for the ball, pulled it down, then separated from his defender and streaked down the sideline for a touchdown. The extra point kick was blocked, so the score was knotted at 6-to-6. Pierce started their next drive at their 26, and were able to gain two first downs via passes. Sidney then held them on their next third down attempt, prompting a punt. Pierce tried a fake punt, but the pass was intercepted by junior Owen Gillham, giving Sidney the ball back at midfield. Sidney wasted no time with another big play, this one an end run down the sidelines by Doty for a touchdown. The kick was good, and the Raiders went up 13-to-6 with about seven minutes left in the half.
A short kick off and good return gave Pierce the ball back in good field position, but the Raiders defense did a great job stuffing up the middle and forcing a third down. Pierce quarterback Champion White tried a short jump-pass over the middle, but his toss was intercepted by sophomore Ben Monheiser, giving Sidney the ball back again at mid field. After Sidney drove down a bit closer, the Raiders hit another big play when Doty scrambled around the right side and took off around the edge, jetting past the defenders for another Sidney touchdown. The extra point kick was good, and Sidney led 20-to-13.
However, Pierce showed that they were no pushover, and that this game would go all four quarters. With about three minutes left in the half, Champion White directed another drive that got the Bluejays close, then a White pass put them deep in the red zone. White kept the ball on a two-yard touchdown run, and a successful extra point kick narrowed the Sidney lead to 20-to-13. Again, Sidney immediately responded with yet another big play. The ensuing kickoff was corralled by sophomore Lance Holly, and the Sidney special team built a nice wall of blockers on the right side of the field. Holly blasted through one of the holes and ran untouched all the way for another Sidney touchdown. Sidney led 27-to-13, and Pierce started their final drive of the half with just 23 seconds left on the clock. After an incomplete pass, Pierce hit a big play on a reception by their tight end, but it was called back due to an ineligible receiver down field, the tight end who caught the ball, who lined up uncovered. After weathering a horrible start to the game, Sidney went into the halftime break up 27-to-13 and they received the ball at the start of the second half.
Sidney started their first drive of the second half as they started their first, with another fumbled exchange between Doty and Holly. Pierce started their drive in good field position, and continued to drive after a fourth down and two conversion. Pierce ended the drive with a third down pass from the nine yard line into the end zone to senior Kaden Froehlich, and the Sidney lead was trimmed to 27-to-20. Sidney started the ensuing drive on their own 24 yard line, but quickly moved up to their 47 yard line on a completed pass to Reid Fiscus. Sidney was looking like they would give up the ball, but Doty scrambled on a third down and then threw up a desperation pass to sophomore Alek Doty. Doty out-jumped the defender, pulled down the pass for a first down, and kept the Sidney drive alive. Soon after, Isak Doty dropped back for a pass, scrambled, then threw across the field to the right side. Lance Riddle again beat his defender, going up for the ball, then sidestepped the defender as he trotted into the end zone. Sidney was up 33-to-20 after the extra point try was blocked.
Pierce started their next drive on their own 30 yard line, and gained some yardage when Valverde broke through the line and took the ball up to the 45 yard line. Soon after, an errant pass down the left sideline was tipped by the receiver, and Landon Riddle was perfectly positioned to intercept the ball. Riddle had no one between him and the end zone, and he streaked down the sideline for another Sidney big-play touchdown. A two point conversion gave Sidney a 41-to-20 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter. Pierce then went on a long drive using a hurry-up offense, mixing runs and passes, and overcoming penalties to get down deep in Sidney territory. On fourth and goal, Sidney forced an incompletion, but a holding call on sophomore Keian Kaiser gave Pierce a first down and goal on the Sidney 6 yard line. The Bluejays were able to score on a run up the middle, and narrowed the lead to 41-to-27. Pierce successfully executed an onside kick, and the Bluejays started to drive again at midfield. Mixing passes and runs, and converting on a fourth down, the Bluejays took the ball down to the 5 yard line when Valverde was able to break through for a touchdown. The score moved to 41-to-34, and Sidney needed a time-consuming drive to end the game, which still had 6:20 left in regulation.
The Red Raiders put together a game winning drive, methodically moving the ball down the field while draining as much time off the clock as possible. They converted on three third down attempts, and on their final first down run, Doty smartly slid after crossing the first down marker, staying in bounds and forcing Pierce to burn their final time out . A few runs later, time expired, and Sidney earned a spot in the semi-finals with a 41-to-34 win.
Isak Doty had another great game, completing 7-of-7 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed 16 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Landon Riddle had a stellar game, pulling down four passes, most in spectacular fashion, for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception, breaking the Sidney record for interceptions with six on the year. Pierce was able to move the ball well, but the Sidney defense was able to get the stop when they had to, and forced three interceptions, one each by Riddle, Ben Monheiser and Owen Gillham. The Red Raiders travel to Wahoo to face off with the undefeated Warriors in the semi-final round of the C1 State Playoffs.