High School Football: Experienced Springfield ready for challenge in regional semifinals

Springfield High School wide receiver James Wood II runs the ball during their Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal game against Marysville on Friday night at Springfield High School. The Wildcats on 23-0. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
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Springfield High School wide receiver James Wood II runs the ball during their Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal game against Marysville on Friday night at Springfield High School. The Wildcats on 23-0. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

With snow on the ground and freezing temperatures reaching record lows this week, the Springfield High School football team took its show on the road.

The Wildcats practiced at the SportsPlex in Fairborn twice this week in preparation for its Division I, Region II semifinal showdown with Dublin Jerome at 7 p.m. Friday night at Marysville High School.

The indoor practice allowed for the Wildcats to focus on football, said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass.

“It’s a lot easier because the kids are focused on the task at hand and not worried about how cold it is,” he said. “If we would’ve went outside on Tuesday, you would’ve had little packs of penguins huddled together. You’re going to have their attention for five minutes. This is much more effective.”

»HS PLAYOFFS: Regional semifinal schedule

The Wildcats are playing into November for the second straight season. Last year, the Wildcats lost to Hilliard Davidson 17-14 in the regional semifinals. That loss has served as motivation for Springfield since the end of last year and throughout the offseason, Douglass said.

“It’s been something that’s been in the back of guys minds how bad that feeling was, how bad that taste felt,” he said. “Week 2 (against Fairfield) was an eye opener about how bad that felt on Saturday morning and Monday coming to school when you lost that game. That’s something I’ve always tried to put in the back of their head that you don’t want that feeling, especially when you’re this close and you have the opportunity at hand to advance.”

The fifth-ranked Wildcats (10-1) will face a Dublin Jerome (9-2) squad that won the Ohio Capital Conference Cardinal Division and beat Springboro 38-31 in five overtimes in the regional quarterfinals last week. Celtics quarterback Ryan Miller, the OCC Cardinal Division Offensive Player of the Year, threw a touchdown pass to Adam Booth in the fifth OT and Jerome recovered a Springboro fumble on the Panthers final possession to seal the victory.

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The Celtics are making their fifth appearance in the playoffs. With the victory, Jerome advanced to the semifinals for the first time since making their only appearance in 2016.

Jerome uses multiple formations on offense, but primarily runs a spread. The teams have one common opponent in Hilliard Bradley — Springfield beat the Jaguars 44-7 in Week 1 and Jerome beat them 43-14 in Week 9.

“It’s a good program that’s been in the playoffs the last few seasons,” Douglass said. “For us to be successful, we’ve got to do a good job getting them out of third down, not letting them continue drives, things like that and try to get the ball back to our offense.”

Springfield beat Marysville 23-0 last week, but struggled in the second half on offense. Last week, the Wildcats played without leading rusher Jeff Tolliver (1,098 yards, 17 TDs) in the second half due to a leg injury. He's expected to play this week, Douglass said.

“We got their attention in our meeting on Saturday watching film,” Douglass said. “We had to let them know you have to take advantage of the moment. You never know when that play is going to come, so you can’t take any plays off, you can’t coast through, anything like that. You’ve got to go out and finish every drive, every series, every play.”

The Wildcats will be ready to put everything on the line this week, he said.

“We tell our guys, ‘You can be tired tomorrow’,” Douglass said. “This is it. You’ve got to lay it on the line every play. If we need you to play 60 plays, you can be tired later on. The guys are excited about this opportunity.”

Division VI, Region 24

Mechanicsburg (9-2) vs. Grandview Heights (7-4) at Hilliard Darby: The sixth-seeded Indians pulled away in the second half to beat third-seeded Adena 32-7 for their first playoff win since 2015.

The seventh-seeded Bobcats beat second-seeded Paint Valley 35-28 for their first playoff win since 2015. Grandview Heights advanced to the state semifinals that season.

The Indians are led by running back Chayse Propst and quarterback Aaron Conley (1,137 passing yards, 15 TDs).