Springfield High School senior wide receiver Michael Brown-Stephens stretches during warmups on Thursday, Aug. 4. Brown-Stephens announced earlier in the week he will play collegiately at the University of Minnesota. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MICHAEL COOPER

What Springfield’s football coach is seeing that makes him feel good about 2018

In less than a week of preseason practice, Springfield High School football coach Maurice Douglass can already see a big difference in this Wildcats team.

“They’re holding each other accountable,” said Douglass, who is entering his fifth season in Springfield. “In the past, we had some guys who wouldn’t say the hard things to one another. This year, guys are holding each other accountable. It’s been a pleasure and a plus for us.”

Douglass hopes the new attitude can bring more success for a Wildcats team that finished 6-4 last season and 1-3 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East. Springfield was in the playoff hunt in Division I, Region 3 until Week 10, but fell to Fairmont 7-3 and finished 10th in the region.

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The Wildcats’ goals are always to win the GWOC National East Division and advance to playoffs, but they’re not looking past a Week 1 matchup against Lancaster at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 at Evans Stadium.

Springfield beat the Golden Gales 55-21 in Lancaster last year.

“They’ve always got a tough group of kids and they’re going to run that triple option a thousand times over,” Douglass said. “We’ve got to come assignment sound and do our job.”

The Wildcats lost starting quarterback Leonard Taylor, who signed to play at the University of Cincinnati this season. He tossed for 1,759 yards last season.

Senior Raheim Moss, who has received offers to play collegiately for both football and basketball, played outside linebacker last year but will see time at quarterback this fall. He played quarterback as a freshman, Douglass said. Incoming freshman Te’Sean Smoot may also see time under center, he said.

The Wildcats will also feature junior running back Tavion Smoot, who rushed for 721 yards and eight touchdowns – and whom his coach affectionately nicknamed Snacks.

“He’s gotten lighter, and that will allow him to be a little bit more elusive,” Douglass said. “It’s going to help with his durability. … He’s coming downhill all day. He’s going to be a battering ram. If you don’t want to get hit, you need to get out of the game.”

Earlier this week, senior wide receiver Michael Brown-Stephens announced his commitment to the University of Minnesota. He had 24 catches for 341 yards (14.2) and accounted for five touchdowns last season for the Wildcats.

“Everything they have is basically perfect for me,” he said. “The city, the coaches – everything just fell into place.”

It’s also a relief to have his future set before the start of the season, Brown-Stephens said.

“I can focus on winning with my team,” he said.

Browns-Stephens also enjoyed spending time with Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, the former Western Michigan coach who has sent 17 receivers into the NFL over the past decade, he said.

“He’s super energetic,” he said.

Brown-Stephens joins senior teammate and DB Moses Douglass (Kentucky) – Maurice Douglass’ son – in committing prior to the upcoming season. More Springfield Class of 2019 recruits are sure to follow, including offensive lineman Isaiah Gibson.

The senior class may have up to 14 players who could play at the next level, including potentially five Division I athletes, Douglass said.

“I’m happy for this group,” Douglass said. “They were like the land of misfit toys when they were freshmen. They had some talent, but they didn’t have togetherness.”

That’s changed in the past few years, Douglass said. The class has recognized the importance of doing things the right way, he said.

“They’ve decided to hold each other accountable and have a true brotherhood,” Douglass said.

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