As the players made their way across the practice field at Springfield High School following a water break, the Wildcats coaches barked at them: “Don’t walk on my field!”
The players responded by sprinting back to their work stations. And if they weren’t fast enough, coaches sent them back and they did it again.
That’s the message the Wildcats players received on the first day of practice under new coach Maurice Douglass: A pedestrian effort isn’t going to help the ‘Cats rebound after a pair of 1-9 seasons.
The Wildcats held their first practice on Friday — the first day allowed by the Ohio High School Association — giving Douglass a chance to check out what he has to work with at Springfield.
“Same type of talent, just a little more confidence at Trotwood than what is presently here,” said Douglass, who took over Trotwood in 2000 and turned the Rams into a perennial state power, including a state championship in 2011. “The kids out here are battling and they’re competing. That’s the thing we want to give them.”
The early roster has 98 players. About 30 of them have never played high school football (including freshmen). The numbers could have been higher, but Douglass said he turned away requests from Trotwood players to follow him to Springfield.
“I had about 15 that wanted to come. Because I know coach (Jeff) Graham and I believe what we’ve built over there, there was no need for them to come over here,” Douglass said.
As if Springfield’s home opener won’t have enough hype with Douglass’ Wildcats debut, it gets an extra dose by hosting Trotwood on Aug. 29.
Trotwood beat Springfield, 41-8, to kick off last season, but forfeited the game after the Rams reported the use of an ineligible player.
“It’s going to be exciting. That’s going to be a great day for us because it’s going to be a really emotional day,” Douglass said. “It’ll be the first day they’ve had to play without Jeff Wellington. He would’ve been a senior. It would have been an opportunity for the seniors to go out as a group in that first game.”
Wellington was shot and killed while trying to resolve a conflict in late April. Wellington’s memory will serve as inspiration.
The Wildcats’ goal now is to honor it with a turnaround season. Sophomore receiver Danny Davis likes where the Wildcats are going, though it’ll take patience.
“It’s all new, but it’s going real good so far. I love it,” Davis said. “I was happy (when Douglass was hired). I thought it was my birthday I was so happy. … We’re going to bounce back and we’re going to get wins. Last year I was a freshman and this year I know I have to make plays now. There’s some big boys in the GWOC.”
The Wildcats want to be among them. Douglass’ practices are helping, even after one day.
“You gotta go with him or he’ll get on you,” Davis said of working hard. “He don’t care who you are. He don’t care if you’re the top player or the worst. He’ll get on you no matter what. He don’t play.”