The Springfield High School football team needed just one play to impose its will in the postseason.
Wildcats senior Jeff Tolliver returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown as Springfield beat Marysville 23-0 in a Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal game on Friday night at Springfield High School.
“We were trying to come out fast, get them down and make them try to do some things that they were not comfortable with,” said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass, “and we did, but we didn’t play as well as we wanted.”
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The Wildcats led 23-0 at the half, but struggled in the final two quarters.The defense was able to keep the Monarchs (6-5) out of the end zone and advance to the regional semifinals for the second straight season.
“That’s all that matters,” Douglass said. “You just want to win. It wasn’t the way we wanted it to be, but we won and we get to play next week.”
Springfield will face Dublin Jerome (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at a site to be determined. The Celtics beat Springboro 38-31 in five overtimes. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce the sites for next week’s playoff games on Sunday.
Smoot went 12-for-24 for 179 yards and two TDs. James Wood II led the Wildcats with six catches for 86 yards and Larry Stephens caught four passes for 66 yards and two TDs.
After Tolliver’s return TD, the Wildcats scored again with 6:32 remaining when Smoot hit Stephens on a 20-yard TD pass.
In the second quarter, Wildcats kicker Cole Yost hit a 20-yard FG to make it 16-0. With 1:20 remaining in the half, Smoot found Stephens from 23 yards out to make it 23-0.
“We started out faster than we did last week (against Trotwood),” Wood said. “We just came out strong, playing physical and making plays.”
It was a different story in the second half. The Wildcats offense struggled without Tolliver, who missed the final two quarters with a leg injury. He hopes to return next week, Douglass said.
“They’ve got a good defensive line and some big dudes,” he said. “Not having Jeff in the second half got us a little stagnant because we had to go with some young guys at running back who I don’t think were ready. They say they were ready, but I don’t think they were ready.”
The Wildcats defense came up big, stopping the Monarchs on multiple fourth downs in the second half. The defense earned its third shutout of the season and held its opponents to seven points or less for the sixth time in 11 games.
Jokell Brown and Te’Vion Gilbreth each had sacks and Delian Bradley recovered a fumble for the Wildcats. The offense was thankful the defense was able to pick up the slack.
“It’s great having a zero on the board every game,” Wood said.
Springfield will look to advance to the regional final for the first time in combined school history. Last year, the Wildcats lost to Hilliard Davidson 17-14.
“We’re just thankful,” Wood said. “(Next week), that’s all we’re worried about.”
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