Springfield eyes another berth in regional finals

12th-seeded Wildcats face top-seeded Lewis Center Olentangy in semifinals

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield High School football team is peaking at the perfect time.

After a 1-3 start, the Wildcats have won four straight games with an old school formula — a stout defense and a smash-mouth running game.

“I’m a defensive guy — the more we’re on the sidelines, the fresher we’re going to be,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “Our offense is going on six-, seven-, eight-minute drives and coming away with points, not turning the ball over and giving the other team good field position. We’ve been able to be successful on defense, getting three-and-outs and giving the ball back to our offense.”

The 12th-seeded Wildcats (7-5) will play top-seeded Lewis Center Olentangy (11-1) in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday at Hilliard Darby High School.

The winner will play either second-seeded Olentangy Berlin (11-1) or sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman (9-3) in the Region 2 final next week at a site to be determined.

Springfield has advanced to the regional semifinals — the state’s version of the Sweet 16 — for the sixth straight season. The Wildcats are seeking their fifth straight regional championship.

Early in the season when the Wildcats were 3-5, Douglass told his team if they could get into the playoffs, they could make some noise in the postseason.

“They had to believe, do the work in practice and continue to prepare and when they got a chance on Friday nights, they had to go out and perform well,” Douglass said. “Now we’re 7-5 with a chance to go 8-5. The goal is to go 11-5 at the end of this journey.”

They’ve won four straight games, including playoff victories against Wayne and Centerville — both of which beat them during the regular season.

During its four-game winning streak, Springfield is averaging 210 rushing yards per game and have turned the ball over just twice.

“We had to lean on our running backs and our offensive linemen,” Douglass said.

Lewis Center Olentangy has won six straight since falling to Olentangy Berlin 27-20 in Week 6. Lewis Center Olentangy beat Miamisburg 38-21 last week to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2020.

“It’s going to be a really great test for us,” Douglass said. “They’re a well-coached team. They’ve got some pretty good playmakers on the perimeter and good quarterback play.”

Olentangy is led by senior quarterback Ethan Grunkemeyer, a Penn State commit, who has thrown for 3,299 yards and 37 TDs. Junior Jackson Wiley — the son of former Ohio State University star Michael Wiley — is the team’s top target with 1,168 receiving yards and 15 TDs. Tight end Gavin Grover, a Cincinnati commit, ranks second on the team with 717 receiving yards and nine TDs.

The key to the game will be winning on first and second down on both sides of the ball, Douglass said.

“We have to put ourselves in good situations where we’re in third-and-short and not having any turnovers offensively,” he said. “We’ve got to do a good job in the kicking game like we’ve done the last three or four weeks. We’ve got to win first and second down on defense and make them be in predictable passing situations on third down. If we can do that, I think we’ll have an opportunity to be successful on Friday night.

“Everybody is really playing complimentary ball right now,” Douglass added. “We’ve been having really spirited practices and we’ve been competing pretty hard in practice against each other.”

The game will be streamed live on spectrumnews1.com and OHSAA.tv.

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