Like the rest of his teammates, Springfield senior two-way standout Michael Brown-Stephens was at a loss to explain a 25-7 meltdown at Northmont on Friday night.
“I don’t think my team was on the same page,” he said after the Wildcats’ unbeaten run through six weeks of the high school football season came to a skidding halt. “We just couldn’t click on offense. On defense we had a few minor mistakes and on offense, we just couldn’t convert on anything we were doing.”
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Northmont (6-1) likely will vault to the top of the Division I, Region 3 computer rankings because leader and defending D-I state champ Pickerington Central lost 31-30 to Lancaster. Springfield (6-1) defeated Lancaster in the season opener, but likely will drop to No. 4 in D-I, Region 3.
The 6-0 run to start the season was the best in Wildcats’ program history since the merger of North and South high schools. Springfield also had rocketed to No. 8 in the D-I state poll and had rocked its previous three opponents by a combined 112-13 margin.
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That seemed to indicate all was clicking well offensively and defensively for the Wildcats heading into the Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover showdown. Instead, a hint of what was to come was brewing in practice all week.
Senior linebacker C.J. McDavid didn’t play against Northmont. “He’s a difference-maker for our defense,” said coach Maurice Douglass.
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Just as impacting was the quick-strike offense that had produced 11 or more touchdowns of 35 yards or more repeatedly sputtered. Springfield had just one first down at halftime, but a ton of questions.
“We didn’t come ready to play as a team,” Wildcats senior quarterback Ra’Heim Moss said. “We’ve got to execute and get better in practice. There’s no excuses at all. Practice this week didn’t go too well. We just need to come in with the right mindset.”
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Springfield scored on Larry Stephens’ 66-yard catch from Moss to pull the Wildcats within 12-7 at halftime.
Springfield’s talented backfield of Tavion Smoot (73 yards rushing), Jeff Tolliver (9) and Moss (7) combined for just 89 yards rushing. Moss, still limited in mobility since a recent ankle injury, completed 7 of 18 passes for 98 yards and was intercepted twice.
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Northmont’s Drew Hickman opened the scoring with a 24-yard pass from quarterback Miles Johnson and added a 60-yarder deep into the third quarter. Northmont’s Jestin Jacobs’ 59-yard blast on the first play of the fourth quarter held up for the final score.
Northmont also had a 28-yard field goal by Brandon Goodwin and a safety after Andrew Knick took down Stephens-Brown in the end zone.
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Northmont coach Tony Broering credited Jacobs’ switch from linebacker to end opposite Gabe Newburg as the key defensive difference-maker for Northmont. The Big Ten senior recruits - Newburg is verbally committed to the University of Michigan and Jacobs to Iowa - helped do what no team had done this season, stop Springfield’s quick-strike offense.
“That gave them a lot of problems,” said Broering, a Shawnee grad and former South head coach.
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Springfield is one of five GWOC teams that will take 6-1 records into Week 8. Springfield is at Beavercreek (1-6) next, then hosts Wayne (5-2) and Fairmont (6-1) in Weeks 9-10 in games that will determine its playoff fate.
“They made some plays and we didn’t,” Douglass said. “I’m pleased with the direction of the team. (Friday) was a speed bump.”
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