From 3-5 start to state championship game, Springfield caps special season with runner-up finish

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

CANTON — In early October, no one viewed the Springfield High School football team as a legitimate state championship contender — except the players and coaches in the locker room.

After a 3-5 start, the Wildcats set out to prove everyone wrong.

“These guys came in to work every Monday from that moment on,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “They decided they were going to put their foot on the pedal and lay it all on the line. We thought that if we could get to 5-5 that we could be in this position. They went out those last two regular season games and persevered.”

The Wildcats nearly pulled off what many thought impossible — winning Clark County’s first state football championship.

“I credit that to the people in Springfield,” Douglass said. “They’ve been downcast for so long and everybody has looked down upon them and spoke bad about the city. These guys here are the things that are great about the city. Their effort, their continual love for each other — they show it out on the field every Friday night. All the way until about two minutes left in the game, they had still had a chance and they were still fighting. Those are the things I’m so grateful for to be their coach.”

Northeast Ohio powerhouse Lakewood St. Edward scored 10 fourth-quarter points to beat Springfield 31-21 in the Division I state championship game on Friday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Wildcats, the highest-seeded team (12th) to ever win a regional championship and advance to a state championship game, trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, but fought back to tie the score at 21 right before halftime.

“These guys showed great perseverance throughout the year,” Douglass said. “The thing we always talk about in the locker room is that it’s a 48-minute game. Even if things don’t go as well as we want to in the first half, we believe that we’re a second half team. I told them if we can hold on until the fourth quarter that we were going to have a chance and we did up until the last drive. It’s a credit to these guys and what they’ve done all year. I’ll go to battle with any of these guys.”

St. Edward beat Springfield in the state championship game for the third straight season. The senior class wanted to bring home the gold trophy for their former teammates who weren’t able to bring it home the previous two seasons.

“The first year we had (Te’Sean Smoot) and the year after that we had my brother (Jaivian Norman) who always told us that we had to get back to the big game,” said Springfield senior running back Jayvin Norman. “We got back to the big game and let our big brothers down again. It kind of hurts, but we fought.”

This year’s season was different in that it took the Wildcats a little bit longer to find its identity, Douglass said. With a strong returning offensive line, the Wildcats relied on its power running game and stout defense to win games.

“This year, we had to find ourselves,” he said.

After finishing the regular season 5-5, the Wildcats beat rivals Wayne and Centerville in the first two rounds of the playoffs. They beat top-seeded Olentangy and Dublin Coffman in Region 2 final before beating Moeller in a D-I state semifinal for the third straight year.

The Wildcats senior class left a lasting legacy for the program different from previous classes, Douglass said.

“These guys will be successful in whatever they attempt in life because they know how to persevere, they know how to fight, they know how to continually fight, keep chopping wood,” he said. “I’m going to miss that part of it. The thing they told their brothers out there is that they can get here next year if they come to work in January. That’s where you get to these moments. I’m going to miss that with these guys, but I’m going to be so happy to watch them on Saturdays next year.”

About the Author