Junior linebacker on ‘another level’ for Wildcats’ dominant defense

Springfield meets Moeller in Division I state semifinals on Friday

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

SPRINGFIELD — After its one-point loss to Miamisburg on Oct. 15, Jaivian Norman has been a man on a mission.

The Springfield High School junior linebacker challenged his teammates to refocus if they wanted to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a state championship.

“You could tell everybody wasn’t focused,” Norman said. “The (Greater Western Ohio Conference) is a tough conference. You’ve got to buy in every week if you want to win.”

Since that game, he’s tallied 26 tackles, including 3.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception in five straight Springfield wins.

“He’s taken his game to another level,” said Springfield football coach Maurice Douglass.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound linebacker and his teammates are one step away from a trip to Canton for the state championship game. The Wildcats (12-1) will play Cincinnati Moeller (11-3) in a Division I state semifinal on Friday at Sidney High School.

The winner will play either Lakewood St. Edward (12-1) or Upper Arlington (14-0) in the title game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

After last season’s loss in the state semifinals, Springfield has unfinished business to take care of, Norman said — and he’s played that way all season.

“At the start of the season, they just put into our head 12-10, the score of our last state semifinal against (St. Xavier),” Norman said. “They got that all in our head. They wanted to remind us that we were a field goal away from getting there.”

Norman, a Division I All-Southwest District first-team selection, leads the Wildcats with 37 solo tackles and ranks second with 82 total tackles. He also leads the GWOC with nine sacks.

A few weeks ago, assistant coach Kawambee Gaines coined Norman’s new nickname, “TTM” — short for “The Tackling Machine.” The junior’s physical play started years ago during tackle football games in the backyard with his brother, sophomore running back Jayvin Norman, who’s rushed for 485 yards and four TDs this fall. Their father, George Norman, also played linebacker at South.

“We were really out there tackling and trying to hurt each other,” Norman said.

Since the Miamisburg loss, the Wildcats defense has allowed just seven points, including four shutouts.

“Everybody buys in, locks in and listens to our coaches,” Jaivan said. “We’ve got great leaders in Coach Douglass and Coach Smoot. They make sure everybody knows their assignments. Every formation we go against we’re going to know what to do every trip.”

“Those guys make it a whole lot easier,” Norman said.

He’s also thankful to play with two game-wrecking senior defensive tackles — Jokell Brown and Tywan January — who clog up the middle for the linebackers, he said.

Douglass compares Norman to Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker because they’re about the same size and stature and play with a lot of energy, he said.

“Jaivian is one of the most explosive players that I’ve coached in the last 21 years,” Douglass said. “He’s relentless as far as his effort. He watches film more than anyone other than probably (senior safety) Delian Bradley. … He’s just a competitor. Whoever gets him after next year is going to be really, really excited about getting him.”

Norman doesn’t have any scholarship offers yet, but Douglass expects his recruiting to explode this winter, he said.

“People will be able to see his body of work and see that he can cover if he needs to be a safety in college or if they want to play him as a nickelback,” Douglass said.

Norman’s goal is simple: bring home a state championship to Springfield.

“I’ve always bled the gold and blue,” Norman said. “Every time I step on the field, I’m trying to make the community proud.”

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