First-year coach Maurice Douglass brings significant experience to Springfield from his previous stop at Trotwood-Madison, including a state championship in 2011.
But, cautions Douglass, don’t put too much pressure on the Springfield Wildcats too soon.
“Give us a year. We’ll be ready to roll in a year,” Douglass said.
Still, the Wildcats should have some bite in 2014. Thirty-five players who didn’t play football last year are on the roster, including two of the ‘Cats biggest and best offensive linemen. When Douglass started at Trotwood in 2001, the strongest lineman benched 205 pounds. At Springfield, the lowest bench press is 245.
The Wildcats were offensively challenged in 2013 with 13 points per game. But key additions at wide receiver could help remedy that.
Junior quarterback Nick McCaughley (435 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) has looked sharp in scrimmages. Sophomore receiver Danny Davis (6-3, 178) — who has a scholarship offer from Kentucky — hauled in 12 passes for 172 yards and a TD last season.
He’s joined by Shawnee junior transfer Jeremiah Ward (6-5, 212), senior Daeshawn Jackson (6-1, 178), senior Henry Alexander (5-11, 168) and senior Albert Smith. None played football last season, but Douglass said they are “good athletes who have been able to show some great leadership characteristics this summer.”
Senior Phillip Banks leads the ground game, which could churn out some yards behind senior right guard Kordell Looney (6-4, 288), junior right tackle Darius Harper (6-8) and senior left guard Darrick Crochran (6-3, 258), who anchor the offensive line. Looney has offers from Bowling Green and Toledo.
A defense that allowed 28 points per game should be stronger up front with senior defensive ends Trent Gilbert (6-5, 225) and Jason Rowland (6-4, 219), junior nose guard Aaron House (6-0, 258) and defensive tackle Looney. Junior Brayden Underwood (6-2, 190) leads the linebackers. Jackson, Alexander and junior Derrick Roberts (6-1, 160) highlight the secondary.
Shawnee junior transfer Saalih Muhammad (6-3, 200) becomes eligible in Week 6. He threw for 1,296 yards, eight TDs and 6 INTs and rushed for 1,020 yards and 14 TDs last season. He’ll likely see time at either quarterback or strong safety.
Springfield opens the season hosting Trotwood-Madison. The Wildcats’ lone win in 2013 came by forfeit after Trotwood reported the use of an ineligible player.
The game will be Springfield’s first since the shooting death of Jeff Wellington. Wellington, then a junior, was shot and killed trying to help resolve a dispute on April 20. To honor Wellington, the Wildcats will wear decals with his initials on their helmets. Four seniors will carry his jersey to the coin toss on Friday.
“The senior class will be playing for one of their fallen brothers. That’s going to be a very emotional moment because that’ll be the first time they’ll have to suit up without Jeff there,” Douglass said.