Johnson helps Xenia run past Sidney 24-15


XENIA — It’s never too early to be proud of being in first place.

Check out more photos from Friday’s game.

Xenia improved to 3-0 this season with a 24-15 victory against Sidney Friday to become the lone unbeaten team in the MVL Valley Division standings.

The Buccaneers have now won 13 straight regular season games dating back to the start of the 2022 season.

“I feel like we’re making a statement,” Elijah Johnson said. “We don’t think people believed in us when the season started and wanted to count us out. This is a statement tonight to put us back on top.”

Johnson increased his league rushing lead to help carry Xenia to the win. He ran for 157 yards, his third straight game over 100 yards, and tacked on a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Buccaneers a 17-point lead.

Ball possession and field position have defined the unbeaten start to Xenia’s season. The team in its three games have gained 56 first downs to just 19 for its opponents.

“We’re getting better at being more consistent on offense,” head coach Maurice Harden said. “We didn’t play a great game tonight as we weren’t very complete. However, I thought we are getting to a point to where we’re executing better and kids are really starting to make plays.”

Xenia quickly grabbed the lead on its opening possession. Several long runs set up a deep pass by Gavin McManus to a wide open Juan Underwood down the middle of the field to put Xenia up 7-0 less than two minutes after kickoff.

Xenia’s defense held down Sidney until Julius Spradling began taking direct snaps at quarterback. The explosive difference he brought became eminent when Spradling zoomed 90 yards down the Xenia sideline for a long touchdown run to tie the score at seven near the midway point of the second quarter.

He accounted for all but five of Sidney’s 141 first half yards, but was held to just 13 yards rushing after halftime.

“He is a player,” Trimonde Henry said of Spradling. “They run that wildcat with him. He’s my guy, I respect him and he can play. You’ve got to stop him.”

Sparked by a balanced attack, Xenia had an immediate response, producing a 60-yard drive helped by big catches from Henry and Underwood to take back the lead. Jace Jones pushed his way into the endzone on a five-yard scamper for his team leading fifth touchdown to get the Bucs a 14-7 advantage before halftime.

Xenia made every possession count to secure the win in the second half.

Sean Leonard extended the lead with a 36-yard field goal early in the third. Ronnie Butler during the ensuing drive put to an end to a Sidney scoring opportunity nearing midfield with his first interception of the season.

Johnson’s touchdown run followed to put Xenia in full control.

“A lot of credit goes to my college football coach,” Harden said, referring to new Sidney head coach Dave Taynor. “They’re a well coached team and it was good for us to play against somebody who were sound and had some athletes comparable to us. It was good to execute against them on a consistent basis.”

Xenia hasn’t shown the same explosiveness as it had offensively a season ago, but a new level of toughness has carried the Buccaneers so far to a similar run of success.

Johnson said playing Sidney came at the right time to prepare he and his teammates for what they will face late in games as the season wears on.

Xenia doesn’t feel like it has put together a full performance yet. The record book though says they’ve done enough to this point, as opponents are still trying to figure out what it will take to stop them.

“Our defense is really legit and our offense is showing all of the potential,” Henry said. “We’re not fully there yet, but it’s getting closer each week.”

See all of the Greene County football results from week three.

Check out more photos from Friday’s game.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.

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