Springfield High’s state title chase a unifying experience for city

A Springfield Wildcats' football helmet sits on a shelf with other memorabilia in the Champion City Cuts barbershop as Dwain Garrett cuts Aaron Harris' hair Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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A Springfield Wildcats' football helmet sits on a shelf with other memorabilia in the Champion City Cuts barbershop as Dwain Garrett cuts Aaron Harris' hair Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

There is a feeling of general excitement and pride in the community ranging from residents dawning blue and gold to chatter in local barbershops as the Springfield High School Wildcats prepare for their first-ever state championship football game this evening.

“It is a big deal. It does not happen very often,” said Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland. “I think the community as a whole is feeling very positive about this whole experience.”

Springfield football players will steponto the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton to face off with Lakewood St. Edward in the Division I state championship game that will start at 7:30 p.m.

For many residents, it is an exciting feat as this is the first time those players will participate in a championship game following past back-to-back defeats at the state semifinals.

In preparation for a team sendoff ceremony this morning, residents across the city, including employees at the Rocking Horse Center, spent their lunch breaks Thursday making signs in support of the players. The employees plan to hold the signs up while cheering on the team as its bus departs for Canton.

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Anna Plataniotis, left, and Sherita Bloxom joined several other employees at the Rocking Horse Center in making signs to show their support for the Springfield Wildcats in the state football playoffs. The employees are planning to stand along South Limestone and cheer as the Wildcats leave for their game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Anna Plataniotis, left, and Sherita Bloxom joined several other employees at the Rocking Horse Center in making signs to show their support for the Springfield Wildcats in the state football playoffs. The employees are planning to stand along South Limestone and cheer as the Wildcats leave for their game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
caption arrowCaption
Anna Plataniotis, left, and Sherita Bloxom joined several other employees at the Rocking Horse Center in making signs to show their support for the Springfield Wildcats in the state football playoffs. The employees are planning to stand along South Limestone and cheer as the Wildcats leave for their game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Others plan to follow the game as well as show support in different ways, such as showing their colors, tuning into the game remotely and encouraging the players.

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Musician and Springfield native John Legend also showed support for the team, tweeting our a congratulatory video Thursday night.

“This is unprecedented, historic,” he said in the video. “No matter what happens, I’m rooting for you and I’m proud of you, and Springfield loves you.”

The championship game also serves as a unifying force that allows the city to rally for a victory as well as shine a positive light on the community.

“It is important to the city. It gives a little light in the darkness. It is a glimmer of hope. It also gives these kids something to look forward to,” said Rufus Humphrey, who owns the Champion City Cuts barbershop, and is a 1989 Springfield South graduate.

Humphrey added that the community is invested in the football team, and the Wildcats’ success in recent years allow people to sit back, relax and take a break from daily life during the Friday evening games.

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Blue and yellow ribbon tied around the lamp posts in downtown Springfield show the community's support for the Wildcats football team. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Blue and yellow ribbon tied around the lamp posts in downtown Springfield show the community's support for the Wildcats football team. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
caption arrowCaption
Blue and yellow ribbon tied around the lamp posts in downtown Springfield show the community's support for the Wildcats football team. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

He attributes a lot of the community’s buzz and the team’s success to the leadership of Coach Maurice Douglass, who has led the team since the 2014 season.

David Estrop, a Springfield city commissioner who previously was superintendent of Springfield schools, said the fact that these players are going to their first championship game is “obviously a point to rally around and for us to take pride in all of those associated with the football program.”

Springfield alumni who talked to this news organization stated that the championship game is also important to those players and graduates who went to the former Springfield North and South high schools, which merged in 2008.

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A sign along South Limestone Street wishes the Springfield Wildcats good luck Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

A sign along South Limestone Street wishes the Springfield Wildcats good luck Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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A sign along South Limestone Street wishes the Springfield Wildcats good luck Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

“There is an overall excitement around what the football team is doing. It gives us something to talk about. We discuss the games, the different players, their abilities and their talents,” said Alex Robinson, who owns Robinson Corner Cutz on South Yellow Springs Street.

“They are coming together as a team and we are coming together as a community. They may not realize the impact they are having on the city,” Robinson, a 2007 Springfield North, graduate, continued.

The football program has deep generational links, he said. Some customers Robinson has had for years were once Springfield football players, now their sons are on the team and are getting their hair cut at his shop.

Humphrey said that since the schools combined, there is no shortage of talent, and the players seem to complement each other well.

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Dorian Hunter, who graduated from Springfield High in 2014 and was a linebacker on the football team, said that the community should be inspired by these players.

A lot of them have been playing together for years, and the fact they are playing in the championship game is also an example of just some of the natural talent the city has to offer.

“It’s just a story of the natural born talent that we have in this city. If we stick together, we believe in each other and we work our butts off, we can accomplish anything we put our mind to,” Hunter said.

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Employees at the Rocking Horse Center made signs Thursday to show their support for the Springfield Wildcats in the state football playoffs. The employees are planning to stand along South Limestone and cheer as the Wildcats leave for their game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Employees at the Rocking Horse Center made signs Thursday to show their support for the Springfield Wildcats in the state football playoffs. The employees are planning to stand along South Limestone and cheer as the Wildcats leave for their game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
caption arrowCaption
Employees at the Rocking Horse Center made signs Thursday to show their support for the Springfield Wildcats in the state football playoffs. The employees are planning to stand along South Limestone and cheer as the Wildcats leave for their game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

He said that a lot of people in the city are proud of these players and are very supportive. However, Hunter said that it’s important to remember that these young men are more than just athletes.

“We do need to understand that these kids will be coming back home and they will be looking for jobs, internships and other opportunities,” he said. “We need to show them the same level of support after high school.”


The city of Springfield has scheduled a send-off ceremony for the Springfield High football team this morning. Residents are encouraged stand along the team’s bus route wearing Springfield High gear and display signs of support as the players leave for Canton.

When: The team is expected to depart Springfield High, 701 East Home Road, at 10:45 a.m.

Where: They will take South Kensington to Limestone and then head south on Limestone to I-70

What: Residents are encouraged to remain on the sidewalks and use proper pedestrian crosswalks as they line the streets to wish the players well.

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