Springfield embracing underdog role in championship game

SPRINGFIELD — After a 3-5 start this season, no one outside of the Springfield High School football program expected the Wildcats to play for a Division I state championship.

The underdog role has fueled Springfield’s thrilling postseason run back to Canton for the third straight season.

“(The players) see it as Springfield against the world,” said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass. “It sounds cliche, but that’s how they feel. They’ve taken that little adage and run with it. We’re excited that we get to do it and excited we get to do it against the team that beat us the last two years.”

Springfield (10-5) will play Lakewood St. Edward (14-1) in the Division I state championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The Eagles have won back-to-back state championships, beating Springfield 23-13 in 2021 and 28-14 last season.

“We’ve got to play with passion, play with energy, play smart,” Douglass said. “We have to realize that we’ve been here before and play the way (we know how.)”

The Wildcats are hoping the third time’s the charm in Canton, especially after such an incredible postseason run.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Wildcats senior wide receiver Dave Williams, who caught a key touchdown pass in the second half of their state semifinal victory against Moeller last week. “We saw the work the past seniors put in and we’re just trying to fill their shoes. We want to get there and get it done instead of getting there and being happy about it.”

Friday’s game will mark the first time two Division I programs will compete for a state championship for the third straight year. Coldwater and Canton Central Catholic advanced to the D-V state title game three years in a row between 2014 and 2016.

Springfield is seeking Clark County’s first state football championship since the OHSAA playoff era began in 1972. Only three programs in Clark County history have advanced to the state championship game — Catholic Central (1991), Shawnee (2011) and Springfield (2021, 2022, 2023).

Springfield, the highest seeded team to ever advance to a state championship game, has won seven straight games. With a victory, the Wildcats would become the first 11-5 team to win the state championship since the playoffs expanded three years ago.

The keys to the game will be winning the turnover battle, winning first and second down on defense and trying to control the trenches as much as possible, Douglass said.

“We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities when we get them,” he said.

The season has been a roller-coaster ride that included coaching changes, injuries and unexpected losses along the way, Douglass said.

“We’re so grateful to be in this position because of all the things we’ve had to overcome, so many had counted us out,” he said. “To be in this spot, it’s just a blessing to see how far they’ve come and grown in their faith. It’s all God, so nobody is going to get credit but him. They’ll be able to look back on how far they’ve come and what they’re capable of with Him on their side.”

The Wildcats have been proving people wrong all season, Douglass said. They hope to do it one more time in Canton.

“There’s been a little bit of bulletin material to make people say, ‘God, I know you got us here for a reason’,” Douglass said. “That’s part of these kids’ testimony and their journey to be able to say at the end of the day what He did and how He performed it through them, but also that it doesn’t matter if they count you out because they don’t matter, their opinions don’t matter. What matters is what you believe.”


Who: Springfield (10-5) vs. Lakewood St. Edward (14-1)

What: Division I state championship game

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton

Tickets: To purchase tickets, log on to OHSAA.org/tickets.

TV: The game will be broadcast live on Spectrum 1 and spectrumnews1.com. It can also be purchased for streaming at OHSAA.tv.

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