Butler helped its own playoff cause with a defensive gem and a win over Sidney. And they’d need some help, but next week could loom even bigger for the Aviators in terms of conference and playoff possibilities.
If his 59-yard touchdown run after stripping a Sidney running back deflated the Yellow Jackets … which it did … imagine what it did to Coyle. The senior linebacker isn’t used to running such distances, well at least not with people chasing him.
“It’s harder to run from people,” a grinning Coyle said, “than it is to catch people.”
Coyle did both Friday night in Butler’s 27-9 victory over Sidney that nearly solidified a spot in the Division III, Region 12 postseason. Butler (6-3 overall, 3-1 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division) moved up one spot to No. 4 in the computer points. A win next Friday against Tippecanoe likely gives Butler a home playoff game.
Sidney (4-5, 1-3 GWOC American North) missed an opportunity to potentially finish with consecutive winning records for the first time since 1995-96. Sidney now attempts to avoid a losing record next week against Greenville.
“Now the next goal is to keep the Battered Helmet with Greenville,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “We’ve had that the last couple years now and it’s a trophy we want to keep. To keep that trophy in Sidney is a big deal for our kids.”
Sidney stuck around for the better part of Friday’s game. But it was Coyle’s grab-and-go touchdown late in the third quarter – which resulted in the Yellow Jackets’ fourth turnover – that proved too much to overcome.
Sidney freshman E.J. Davis took a hand off around the left end, and was met by Coyle near Butler’s 40-yard line. Coyle – all in one motion – ripped the football out of Davis’ hands, secured it in his own and sprinted down the sideline. He had one defender to beat and did so but cutting to the inside near the 10-yard line.
“He’s just one of those kids … he’s a naturally good football player,” Puckett said. “He understands the game. In my 20 years in four states he’s one of the better football players I’ve coached.”
Coyle’s touchdown with 4:14 to play in the third quarter gave Butler a 20-3 lead.
“I just caught him on the run, pulled it out, spun and ran as fast as I could,” said Coyle, who forced a fumble recovered two fumbles and led the Aviators with 16 tackles. “I was running and I kept looking back and the guy was slowly coming up to me … I thought I was going to get caught. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’m really not that fast.’”
That play pretty much summed up Sidney’s night. The Yellow Jackets’ remained close to the Aviators, but just couldn’t run them down in the end. Sidney trailed 14-3 at halftime despite a lost fumble, fumbled punt attempt and two interceptions on its first four drives. Hailey Truesdale’s 26-yard field goal with 22 seconds before the half gave Sidney a boost.
The Yellow Jackets then took the opening drive of the second half 66 yards on 14 plays … and all the way to the Aviators’ 15-yard line. The drive stalled on fourth-and-5 with an incomplete pass.
“We just couldn’t finish a drive defensively. (Sidney is) good, obviously,” Butler’s Puckett said. “They’re very talented. Coming into this game they made me nervous because they are so athletic, especially on the perimeter. … We played a lot of defensive snaps in the second half. But we made plays when we had to.”
Sidney quarterback Ryan Dunham completed 8-of-23 passes for 91 yards and two interceptions. A cold, hard on-again, off-again rain led to a few wobbly passes and a few drops, too. Dunham’s first interception appeared to slip out of his hand and the second was tipped by a defensive back right to another.
Sidney pulled to 20-9 with 11:10 left in the fourth quarter on a Caleb Harris 3-yard touchdown run.
The Yellow Jackets’ attempted an onside kick, which set up the Aviators’ on Sidney’s 49-yard line. The 1-2 punch of quarterback Mason Motter (19 carries for 125 yards, TD) and Ryan Martin (26 carries for 73 yards, 2 TDs) then wore down Sidney’s defense. Butler used six runs – capped by Motter’s 28-yard scoring sprint on fourth-and-1 – to restore the lead to 27-9.
“This is a big step. It was a great team win,” Motter said. “Our offense was just pounding it and pounding it and our defense came up big. Our defense is really good. They step up when we need them.”
Added Puckett: “That’s how we trained all summer … to be able to grind teams out and be able to win in the third quarter and fourth quarter when holes start opening up. Our offensive line kept going and going.”
Butler finished with 201 yards of total offense. It wasn’t a lot – the Aviators ran just six offensive plays in the third quarter – but it got the job done. Motter also attempted four passes and completed one for two yards.
Sidney had 232 yards, with 141 coming on the ground. Caleb Harris rushed 29 times for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“They like games like this when you have to grind it out.,” Pucket said of his Aviators. “I love this team. I love their resilience. They’re just tough kids. I love them.”
Butler still has an outside shot at sharing the American North Division title with Troy. Butler needs to beat Tippecanoe (4-5, 1-3 GWOC) and needs Piqua (6-3, 3-1 GWOC) to upset Troy (8-1, 4-0 GWOC).
“We don’t have a shot at sharing the league,” Puckett said, “if we don’t beat Tipp City. That’s our No. 1 goal.”