High School Football: Smoot, Tolliver lead Springfield past Fairmont

Jeff Tolliver returned to the Springfield sideline twice Friday night after breaking tackles on long touchdown runs. He knew who to thank.

“I told them on the sideline it was one of their best games and they’ve got to keep that up,” Tolliver said. “We used to be on them all the time, so they felt love when a running back said how good the line’s blocking.”

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High-scoring offenses thrive on good blocking, and Springfield’s backs and receivers are making big plays. The Wildcats (4-1, 1-0) are averaging 37 points in their victories following Friday’s 34-7 Greater Western Ohio Conference victory over winless Fairmont.

“That’s the best football team we’ve seen and probably will see,” Fairmont coach Dave Miller said. “They’re destroying people, and there’s no shame in losing to them.”

Tolliver was the most difficult Wildcat to stop. He scored on runs of 46 and 26 yards and rushed 10 times for 122 yards. Once he got to the second level of the defense he made defenders miss, bounced off them and outran them.

“Just run, just run, that’s all I’m thinking,” Tolliver said. “Hit the hole as fast as you can, try to juke a defender.”

Tolliver has speed and power and fellow senior Tay’Veon Smoot is a mountain to bring down at 5-foot-11 and 238 pounds. He had a modest 48 yards on 14 carries, but he leads the team in carries and has rushed for 382 yards. Tolliver has 466 and is averaging 10 yards a carry.

The passing game is led by sophomore quarterback Te’Sean Smoot and receivers Larry Stephens, Jalen Minney and James Wood. Smoot was 5 of 6 passing for 64 yards and three touchdowns. Halfway through the season he has thrown for 905 yards, nine touchdowns and only one interception. Stephens, who has committed to Toledo, caught touchdowns of nine and six yards and has 22 catches and seven touchdowns. Minney caught a 27-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring against Fairmont.

“We felt confident in our offense tonight to do some of the things we’ve been successful doing this season,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “It allows you to be balanced because you’ve got guys at different positions.”

Fairmont (0-5) was still determined to make it a close game just like the last three times these teams have met when the Firebirds won twice and Springfield won in the playoffs last year. They drove 74 yards in 17 running plays in 9 minutes and 16 seconds to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 21-7 just before halftime on Trey Baker’s two-yard run.

The Firebirds started the second half the same way, running inside and using the option to get outside, including converting a fourth down on a fake punt near midfield. But at the Springfield 25 the Firebirds fumbled and the Wildcats’ Delian Bradley recovered. The Firebirds fumbled again a few minutes later and Springfield finished strong with two touchdowns.

“It could’ve gone that way,” Miller said, referring to the recent tussles with Springfield. “If we make it 21-14, it’s a knock-down, drag-out.”

Douglass said the past three meetings with the Firebirds were cold and wet. He was thankful for the summer-like conditions this time.

“Having a dry surface — it’s September, not November … do you remember,” he said, almost breaking into song. “It’s September and it’s a different story on the scoreboard.”

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