‘Making history’ — Springfield advances to first regional final for first time

The Springfield High School football team is headed to the regional finals for the first time in combined school history.

The Wildcats scored 21 points in the third quarter to pull away from Dublin Jerome en route to a 37-14 victory in a D-I, Region 2 semifinal game on Friday night at Marysville’s Impact Stadium.

“We’re moving on, making history,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “It’s a good day to be a Wildcat.”

Senior Jeff Tolliver rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries as the Wildcats improved to 11-1. They’ll play Dublin Coffman (10-2) — a 42-17 winner over Toledo Whitmer in the other semifinal — at 7 p.m. Friday at a site to be determined. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will release regional final sites on Sunday afternoon.

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No Springfield team — including North and South before the merger — has ever advanced to the state semifinals in football.

“We’re just trying to make history,” Douglass said. “Every day is a history day.”

Springfield’s offense wracked up 337 yards of total offense, including 278 yards on the ground. Tay’Veon Smoot rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries and Te’Sean Smoot rushed for 46 yards and a TD on 10 carries.

“They did a good job of preparing in practice this week, really paying attention to detail,” Douglass said. “They did a good job of running hard and physical. They wanted to be physical and we wanted to be physical.”

The Wildcats held Jerome to 147 yards of offense, forcing three turnovers and allowing just five first downs for the Celtics.

“We’re all locked in,” said Wildcats senior Jalan Minney who had an interception in the second half. “The starters and the backups are all coming in and doing their work, everybody is watching film and talking to their position coach. I think we’re all coming together.”

It took a few minutes for the Wildcats to heat up. Springfield fumbled the opening kickoff on its own 20-yard line. The Wildcats defense held the Celtics to a three-and-out and senior Davyeon Bates blocked Jerome’s field goal attempt.

After the two teams traded turnovers, Tolliver scored on a 28-yard run to give Springfield a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. Springfield scored on a 15-yard run by Te’Sean Smoot on its next possession to give the Wildcats a 13-0 lead.

Wildcats senior Larry Stephens returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining in the half, but it was called back due to a penalty.

Dublin Jerome pulled to within six points early in the third quarter when junior quarterback Ryan Miller hit Sammy Stoner on a 78-yard TD pass to make it 13-7.

The Celtics wouldn’t get any closer.

Te’Sean Smoot hit James Wood on a 26-yard TD pass to make it 20-7.

On Jerome’s next possession, Springfield’s Delian Bradley tipped a pass and it fell into the hands of TyAren Brown, who returned it 20 yards for a TD to extend the lead to 27-7 .

It was the first pick-six of Brown’s career.

“I saw it in the air and I just thought, ‘Make the play’,’ Brown said. “That’s what my coach always tells me: ‘Make the play’.”

Tolliver scored on a 36-yard run to give Springfield a 34-7 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Jerome scored on a 1-yard run by Miller to make it 34-14. Springfield’s Cole Yost hit a 28-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring.

The Wildcats set a school record for victories in a season with 11, but they’re hoping to increase that number in Week 13.

“We’ve got to get better for next week,” Minney said.

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