Springfield Wildcats: Looking back at path to state championship game

A game-by-game review of the 2021 season

The Springfield Wildcats will play for the state championship game for the first time at 7:30 p.m. Friday, facing Lakewood St. Edwards at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

Springfield seeks to become the first Clark County school to win a state championship during the playoff era, and its appearance in the title game this season comes after back-to-back losses in the state semifinals in 2019 and 2020. Two other teams in Clark County history have advanced to the state championship game: Catholic Central in 1991; and Shawnee in 2011.

» PHOTOS: Top 50 images from Springfield’s season

The new Springfield High School opened in 2008 when North and South high schools combined. The new school reached the playoffs for the first time in 2009. This is its seventh playoff appearance.

The Wildcats have won six games in a row since their only loss, 22-21 to Miamisburg on Oct. 15. They have played 14 games and won a school-record 13 of them. The latest victory came Friday: 22-21 against Cincinnati Moeller in Sidney. Here’s a look back at Springfield’s 2021 season to this point.

Game 1, Aug. 20

Springfield 24, Saint Ignatius 20

SPRINGFIELD — Micha Johnson had not played a football game since elementary school. He had the athletic ability. His teammates on the basketball court knew that. They urged him to return to football for his senior year at Springfield High School.

In May, Johnson decided to give it a try, and he’s worked on relearning the game in recent months. He’s still learning, he said, but one play showed just what he can do and what a good decision he made.

In the fourth quarter of the 2021 season opener, Johnson picked off a pass by Saint Ignatius quarterback Joey Pfaff along the sideline in front of the Saint Ignatius bench and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 24-20 lead with 2 minutes, 57 seconds to play.

That score stood up as the Wildcats rallied from a 20-10 deficit in the final minutes and celebrated perhaps their most impressive non-conference regular-season victory in the history of the new high school.

“It motivates us and keeps us pushing,” Johnson said.

No Clark County team has won a state football championship in the playoff era. After two straight state semifinal appearances, the Wildcats hope to become the first in 2021. They have all the pieces to make another run, and beating an 11-time state champion to start the season takes the expectations to another level.

“It’s just one week,” said eighth-year Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “We’ve just got to continue to battle.

Game 2, Sept. 4

Springfield 46, Lima Senior 6

LIMA — Te’Sean Smoot ran for two touchdowns in the first half, and Ramon Browder added three touchdown runs in the second half as Springfield rolled to a victory at Lima Senior.

Springfield (2-0) played for the first time since a season-opening 24-20 victory at home against Saint Ignatius on Aug. 20. Its second game was cancelled because of COVID-19 issues at Fairfield. It scheduled Lima Senior (1-1) when a game at Trotwood-Madison was cancelled.

Smoot completed 6 of 16 passes for 74 yards and threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Thigpen in the third quarter. He also rushed 18 times for 120 yards, scoring on runs of 44 yards and 5 yards.

Browder gained 144 yards on 14 carries. He had touchdown runs of 26, 17 and 7 yards.

Springfield led 13-0 at halftime. Lima Senior cut the deficit to 13-6 early in the third. Then Tyron Barnes scored on a 72-yard kickoff return to extend Springfield’s lead to 20-6. That was the first of five straight touchdowns by the Wildcats in the second half.

Game 3, Sept. 10

Springfield 21, Wayne 14

HUBER HEIGHTS — As Springfield High School celebrated a victory at Wayne, coach Maurice Douglass said, “That’s the way you battle in the GWOC.”

The Wildcats improved to 3-0 with a victory in their Greater Western Ohio Conference opener.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Wayne

“It feels good,” Springfield senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot said. “Having games cancelled and having to pick up games, we’re just grateful to be able to play. We’re taking it week by week and preparing for anything.”

Smoot scored on runs of 1 yard and 2 yards in the first half. Then he capped a methodical drive with a go-ahead 20-yard touchdown run — the only score of the second half by either team — with 1:40 to play in the third quarter.

With multiple starting wide receivers sidelined with injuries, Smoot said the team wanted to be physical, and it paid off on that drive.

“We just did a good job up front blocking,” Douglass said. “Our running backs ran hard. (Smoot) ran hard and made some good decisions.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Game 4, Sept. 17

Springfield 42, Beavercreek 0

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield High School senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot tossed two touchdowns passes and ran for another as the Wildcats won their fourth straight game, beating Beavercreek in a Greater Western Ohio Conference game.

Springfield senior Eddie Muhammad, junior Ramon Browder and sophomore Jayvin Norman all rushed for TDs for the Wildcats (4-0, 2-0 GWOC).

Springfield senior Delian Bradley and sophomore William Calhoun each caught TD passes in the victory.

Defensively, the Wildcats held the Beavers to minus-9 yards, allowing one first down in the game.

Springfield, Centerville and Springboro all stand atop the GWOC at 2-0. The Wildcats travel to Fairmont, which lost to Springboro 15-14, next week.

Game 5, Sept. 24

Springfield 24, Fairmont 0

KETTERING — Fairmont averaged 22.6 points in its first five football games and didn’t score fewer than 14 points thanks to the most productive rushing game (239.5 yards per game) in the Greater Western Ohio Conference.

Then Springfield, ranked fourth in Division I, proved once again why it’s one of the best teams in Ohio by blanking Fairmont 17-0 on Friday in Week 6 of the high school football season. The Wildcats (5-0, 3-0) remain the only undefeated team in the GWOC.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Fairmont

The Firebirds didn’t threaten to score, and Springfield didn’t need to score after scoring all its points in the first half. The game moved at a rapid pace, taking just under two hours.

“They’re really good up front,” Fairmont coach David Miller said of Springfield. “We struggled all night up front. That’s a credit to them. They’re a really good football team. Our defense, really other than a couple plays, it was a heck of an effort by them, but we’ve got a lot of work to do on offense. Coach (Maurice) Douglass, he’s got one heck of a team over there. We knew going in we were going to have our hands full, and sure enough, they were as good as advertised.”

Game 6, Oct. 1

Springfield 26, Springboro 0

SPRINGBORO — Springfield coaches wrote the number “14″ on the board in the locker room at the high school earlier in the week as the Wildcats prepared for a game at Springboro. The players knew what it meant.

Springfield entered the game with a shutout streak of 10 quarters and wanted to keep it alive with four more quarters. It did just that Friday, blanking Springboro 26-0 at CareFlight Field.

“This defense, we worked hard in practice and stayed focused,” defensive lineman Tywan January said, “and we’re on to the next one.”

The goal is now 18 quarters, Brown said, though that will be a challenge because the next opponent is 10th-ranked Centerville, which beat Beavercreek 53-0 on Friday and has won four games in a row.

The Wildcats (6-0, 4-0) and Elks (6-1, 4-0) share first place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference with three games to play. Springfield beat Centerville 31-24 in overtime last season and has won three straight games in the series.

Game 7, Oct. 8

Springfield 44, Centerville 7

SPRINGFIELD — Delian Bradley wore the homecoming king’s crown at halftime Friday and then celebrated third-ranked Springfield’s 44-7 victory against No. 9 Centerville in what was supposed to be the most challenging game on the Greater Western Ohio Conference schedule for the Wildcats.

What was better?

“I’ll take both,” said Bradley, a senior free safety. “Two wins in one night is great.”

Bradley also returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He was just one standout for the Wildcats on a night of dominance in a matchup of top-10 teams in Springfield.

Te’Sean Smoot ran for three scores and completed 16 of 19 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown pass. Anthony Brown caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Smoot and led the Springfield receivers with 10 catches for 113 yards.

“This is what we’re built for; we’re built for moments like this,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “I came in for these type of moments. We want to get even further than we did last year, and these are the things that build that type of momentum.”

Game 8, Oct. 15

Miamisburg 22, Springfield 21

Miamisburg students raced onto the field with their cell phone cameras rolling to celebrate a 22-21 victory against No. 2 Springfield on Friday at Holland Field.

No one deserved the victory more than junior tight end Jackson McGohan, who had an interception to end Springfield’s first drive and caught three touchdown catches from Justin Barry. The third touchdown came with eight seconds to play and set up the game-winning two-point conversion run by Christian Davis.

“It was great,” said McGohan, who has Division I scholarship offers from UAB and Charlotte. “We thought we were going to win. Nobody else did, obviously.”

McGohan finished the game with seven catches for 152 yards. Barry completed 16 of 28 passes for 254 yards.

Game 9, Oct. 22

Springfield 47, Northmont 0

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Wildcats will play at home again in the playoffs — twice if they win their first-round game — but Senior Night was still emotional.

“They’re one of my favorite groups,” coach Maurice Douglass said. “I don’t have a favorite, but they’re one of them.”

Offensive coordinator Chris Wallace, who experienced his own Senior Night 28 years ago at South High School, had an extra reason to see the night as something special. He has coached Springfield senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot the last four seasons but has known him since he was in elementary school.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Northmont

“I cried today before he came out,” Wallace said. “Me and him had a little one on one.”

“Senior Night is crazy,” Smoot said. “It goes by fast. I remember walking through the high school my first day of freshman year, and they said it was going to go by fast, but I didn’t think it was going to go by this fast. It was great to be able to end my Senior Night like this.”

Smoot ran for three touchdowns as the No. 5 Wildcats (8-1, 6-1) returned to their dominant ways and built momentum for the playoffs one week after suffering their first and only loss of the regular season. They routed Northmont to clinch a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference championship.

“We just had to put the past in the past,” Smoot said, “and come back the next week and just prepare even more. Our heads weren’t really on straight. We got a little big headed. We had to humble ourselves and get a new mindset. Now it’s win or go home. We’ve got to step up and play big boy ball.”

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Game 10, Oct. 29

Springfield 42, Northmont 7

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield wracked up 382 yards of total offense and held Northmont to 63 yards en route to a victory in a D-I, Region 2 first-round game at Springfield High School.

The second-seeded Wildcats improved to 9-1 and advanced to host seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome (8-3) next Friday night in the regional quarterfinals. The Celtics beat 10th-seeded Olentangy Liberty 21-7 on Friday night.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Northmont

The Wildcats beat Northmont for the second straight week. Last Friday, Springfield scored a 47-0 shutout last week to clinch a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference title.

“We’re just glad to get the win,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said Friday night. “I’m happy for our kids. It’s hard to play someone in back-to-back weeks. We were telling them last week was the first half and this week was the second half. We’re glad to finish what we started and we’re on to the next one.”

Wildcats senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot went 19-for-25 for 310 yards and four TDs and rushed for two scores Springfield junior wide receiver Daylen Bradley caught seven passes for 117 yards and a TD, junior Anthony Brown caught six passes for 91 yards and two TDs and junior Shawn Thigpen had three receptions for 65 yards and a TD.

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Game 11, Nov. 5

Springfield 34, Dublin Jerome 0

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield High School football team is one step closer to Canton.

Senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as second-seeded Springfield beat seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome in a Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal game in Springfield.

Smoot went 17-for-23 for 263 yards through the air and rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries as Springfield won its third straight game.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Dublin Jerome

Junior wide receiver Daylen Bradley caught eight passes for 142 yards and two TDs, while junior Anthony Brown and senior Dominic Turner also caught TD passes for the Wildcats (10-1). Defensively, Wildcats junior Jaivian Norman had a sack and an interception, while junior Tawfig Jabbar also had a sack.

“We’re not thrilled with the first half, but we’re glad to be moving on and trying to accomplish our goal,” said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass.

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Game 12, Nov. 12

Springfield 13, Findlay 0

BELLEFONTAINE — The Springfield High School football team is back in the regional finals for the third straight season — and they did it with defense.

The second-seeded Wildcats beat Findlay 13-0 in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal game on a snowy Friday night at Bellefontaine’s AcuSport Stadium, earning their sixth shutout of the season.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Findlay

“Our guys stepped up when their number was called,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “They bent a little bit tonight more than they have, but they didn’t break and (Findlay) didn’t score. I’m so happy and excited for those guys and their performance tonight.”

Springfield senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot rushed for 95 yards and a TD as the Wildcats improved to 11-1 .

Game 13, Nov. 19

Springfield 27, Marysville 0

HILLIARD — The number of the night for the Springfield Wildcats was three.

“I told the guys if they gave us three touchdowns, it’s over,” coach Maurice Douglass said. “They gave us four.”

Three also stood for the number of Division I regional championships Springfield has won in the last three seasons. It beat Dublin Coffman 7-3 in London in 2019 to win the first regional championship in school history. A year ago, it beat Powell Olentangy Liberty 19-0 in Springfield.

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Marysville

On Friday, the second-seeded and fifth-ranked Wildcats recorded another shutout in the regional final, beating No. 1 seed and second-ranked Marysville in the Region 2 final at Hilliard Darby High School.

As the Wildcats celebrated the victory with the school band behind the end zone, running back Jayvin Norman spotted a camera and looked directly into it and said, “One, two, three,” holding up fingers for each number to symbolize his team’s accomplishment.

With this three-year run, Springfield has matched the total number of state final four appearances by the rest of Clark County. Catholic Central reached the state championship game in 1991 and played in the final four in 2007. Shawnee reached the state championship game in 2011. Now the Wildcats will try to become the third Clark County team to reach the final game and the first to win a state championship in the playoff era.

“We have a lot of momentum going into next week,” defensive lineman Jokell Brown said.

“I feel very grateful,” wide receiver Anthony Brown said. “Very blessed. It’s unexplainable.”

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Game 14, Nov. 26

Springfield 22, Moeller 21

SIDNEY — After back-to-back years of heartbreak in the state semifinals, the Springfield High School football team is headed to the state championship game for the first time in program history.

And they did it in dramatic fashion.

Trailing by five points late in the fourth quarter, junior Anthony Brown scored on a 7-yard run to lift Springfield to a 22-21 victory over Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I state semifinal game on Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium.

“We’re finally going to Canton,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “I’m so happy for our team and the city of Springfield, our coaching staff and all of our past players, the people who helped build this thing.”

» PHOTOS: Springfield vs. Moeller

The Wildcats (13-1) will face Lakewood St. Edward in the D-I state championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The Eagles (14-1) beat Upper Arlington 16-10 in the other state semifinal.

Springfield is seeking to become the first Clark County team to win a state football championship since the playoff era began in 1972. Only two other teams in Clark County history have advanced to the state championship game — Catholic Central in 1991 and Shawnee in 2011.

“It’s surreal,” Brown said. “Putting in all that work in the offseason, talking about it and manifesting it and it finally becoming true, it’s crazy.”

The Wildcats finally broke through this season after state semifinal losses to Cincinnati Elder 31-24 in 2019 and Cincinnati St. Xavier 12-10 a year ago.

“We were trying to kick the door down,”said Wildcats senior quarterback Te’Sean Smoot said. “That’s what we keep saying. To be able to get over this hump after taking Ls the past two years, it feels amazing.”

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