After advancing deep into the Division I, Region 3 playoffs last season, the goal remains the same for the Springfield High School football program — a trip to Canton in Week 15.
“The goal is to go 15,” said Wildcats football coach Maurice Douglass.
The Ohio high school football season starts on Thursday with the first day of practice. Scrimmages may be held Aug. 9 through 24 with the majority of teams playing their final preseason tune-up on Aug. 23. The season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 30.
The Wildcats finished 9-3 last season, earning a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division championship with Wayne at 3-1 in the division.
Springfield advanced to the Division I, Region 3 playoffs for the second time in three seasons, beating division rival Fairmont 19-14 in the quarterfinals before falling to Hilliard Davidson 17-14 in the semifinals. Since the schools combined in 2008, the Wildcats have yet to reach Week 13.
They’re hoping to change that this fall.
“Last year with us getting as close as we were and having so many injuries that made it a little difficult for us to get it finished, I think it lit a fire under us a little bit,” Douglass said. “It made us how important every possession is.”
The Wildcats are hungry to keep winning after last season’s success — and it showed in the weight room this winter, Douglass said. They return seven starters on both offense and defense, he said. The senior class is one of the strongest since the merger, having gone undefeated in both seventh and eighth grade.
Springfield played a strong slate of 7-on-7 passing tournaments this summer, including games against Dublin Coffman, Mansfield Senior, Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall.
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“Guys did a great job of buying in and continuing to improve each and every day,” Douglass said. “We’re excited for what the future holds for us.”
The Wildcats smash-mouth offense returns two key starters in senior running backs Tavion Smoot (863 yards, 4 TDs) and Jeff Tolliver (566 yards, 8 TDs). They’ve added a third back in Bryce Walker, who moved back to Springfield after playing at Wayne the last two seasons.
“We’re going to have a three-headed monster that’s going to be pretty fierce in the backfield,” Douglass said.
The offense also returns wideout Larry Stephens (15 rec., 363 yards, 5 TDs), a University of Toledo recruit.
The Wildcats lost dual threat quarterback Ra’Heim Moss to graduation, but freshman Te’Sean Smoot got experience behind center during the first two games of the year last fall. He’ll take over for Moss as the Wildcats signal-caller. He also earned scholarship offers from Toledo, Bowling Green and Kentucky.
“He’s a year wiser, a year stronger,” Douglass said. “He had a great summer as far as his development is concerned. We’re excited about what the future holds for him.”
Defensively, they’ll have big shoes to fill with the loss of several key starters, including safety Moses Douglass and defensive tackle Isiah Gibson, who will both play at Kentucky this fall.
The Wildcats return leading tackler Xzerious Stinnett (74 total tackles, two sacks, five fumble recoveries).
Springfield opens the season at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at Hilliard Bradley before returning home for Week 2 against Fairfield. They’ll play a non-league game in Week 3 at fellow GWOC member Miamisburg.
“We’re excited to get after it,” Douglass said.
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