With a victory, the Wildcats can become the first program in Clark County history to advance to back-to-back state championship games. Only two other programs — Catholic Central in 1991 and Shawnee in 2011 — have advanced to the state championship game.
Moeller has won five straight games since falling to St. Edward 6-0 in Week 9. The Crusaders beat Lakota West 38-20 last week to win their second straight Region 1 championship.
The Wildcats will have to stop Moeller junior running back Jordan Marshall, the Division I Southwest District Offensive Player of the Year, who has rushed for 1,786 yards and 27 touchdowns this fall. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound four-star recruit has more than 25 scholarship offers, including Ohio State and Michigan.
Marshall rushed for 154 yards and three TDs in last year’s state semifinal loss to the Wildcats. Earlier this week, he was announced as a finalist for the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association’s Mr. Football award.
“He’s got great vision and great balance,” said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass. “He sees some things that other kids can’t see as far as the run lanes that are opened by his linemen. The linemen do a great job of getting on their blocks. They do a great job of moving the line of scrimmage and giving him gaps.”
Defensively, the Crusaders are led by 6-0, 230-pound senior Brandon Martin, who led the Greater Catholic League South Division with 16 sacks this season. He had 3.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in last week’s victory over Lakota West. Senior defensive backs Conlan Daniel and Matthew Seliga combined for nine interceptions for Moeller.
“We’ve got to do a great job of handling the blitz and winning up front,” Douglass said. “They do a lot of pressure packages. Sometimes they’ll send six guys at you. They know you’re going to have somebody who goes unblocked so we’ll have to do a good job recognizing where those guys are at.”
The key to the game will be winning the trenches, Douglass said.
“We’ve got to win first and second down,” he said. “We’ve got to do a great job of tackling.”
Offensively, the Wildcats are led by senior quarterback Bryce Schondelmyer (4,120 yards passing, 43 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) and senior receivers Anthony Brown (70 receptions, 1,439 yards, 18 TDs) and Daylen Bradley (84 receptions, 1,230 yards, 12 TDs). Schondelmyer and Brown were first-team, all-district selections, while Bradley was named to the second team.
Springfield has first-team, all-district picks at all three levels of its defense -- lineman Robert Owens, Jr., linebacker Jaivian Norman and defensive back Aaron Scott.
“They’re just really good in all three phases,” Moeller coach Mark Elder told our news partners at WCPO.com earlier this week. “Unbelievably talented. From a skill standpoint I think this might be the most talented team I would say - probably more talented than (Our Lady of) Good Counsel (Md.) was. So they’re really, really talented and have a lot of great players in that program.”
While Moeller is looking for revenge, the Wildcats have plenty of motivation to get back to Canton after finishing as state runner-up last season.
“We got a chip on our shoulder, too,” Douglass said. “We’re trying to get back to where we were at, the scene of the crime. We didn’t finish it last year so we’ve got a little edge, a little more motivation as well. We’re just excited about the opportunity to be out there and playing. God has blessed us both with the opportunity to play on Friday night and we’re just excited about the opportunity to do it.”