Springfield made the playoffs for the first time in six years last season and won more conference games than in the previous five seasons combined. The Wildcats will be aiming higher this season, with hopes of winning the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division and making a deep postseason run.
The sidelines at several area schools will look different this year, as six teams have new head coaches. Two area conferences will have new looks, too: the Central Buckeye Conference has new divisional alignments for the second consecutive season, and the Ohio Heritage Conference has four new members.
Those are among the prominent area storylines to watch as high school football teams statewide start practice Monday. Preseason practice for cross-country, girls tennis, golf, soccer and volleyball begins Tuesday.
Springfield finished 7-4 last season, including a 3-1 mark in National East play. To continue the success this season, the Wildcats need to replace their two best offensive players from last year in Danny Davis and Shame Ramey.
Davis, who is now playing football at Wisconsin, had 2,257 all-purpose yards and led the team with 14 touchdowns. Ramey rushed for more than 150 yards per game in Weeks 5-8 and finished the season with 919 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Though Davis and Ramey are tough losses, Springfield returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense. A host of returning Wildcats have multiple Division I offers, including Moses Douglass (DB), Cameron Hoelscher (LB), Isaiah Gibson (OL) and Leonard Taylor (DL).
Springfield will play six games at Evans Stadium, which has a new look this season. Artificial turf was installed late last spring, which is the latest in a series of improvement projects that includes resurfacing of the track and repainting of the press box.
Both the Central Buckeye Conference and Ohio Heritage Conference have different looks with new divisional lineups. Jonathan Alder officially joined the CBC this summer and will play in the Kenton Trail Division. Urbana moves back to the Mad River Division after playing in the Kenton Trail last year.
The Ohio Heritage Conference has four new teams (Fairbanks, Madison Plains, Greenon, West Jefferson) and will play with divisional lineups for the first time. Fairbanks, Triad, Mechanicsburg, Northeastern, West Jefferson and West Liberty-Salem are in the OHC North Division, while Catholic Central, Cedarville, Greeneview, Greenon, Madison Plains and Southeastern are in the OHC South.
Six area schools have new coaches: Graham (Shane Cahill), Greeneview (Ryan Haines), Greenon (Josh Wooten), Northwestern (Shane Carter), Southeastern (Payton Printz) and Urbana (Carleton Cotner).
Regular season play begins for most area teams Aug. 25. The playoffs begin Nov. 3 and run five weeks through state finals, which take place Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (formerly Fawcett Stadium) in Canton.