‘Why not us?’ — Springfield seeks first state championship in rematch with St. Edward

Defending state champions played one of the toughest schedules in the state

The state runner-up trophy blends in well with dozens of other trophies at Springfield High School. Anyone searching for it would have to look closely to find it.

That trophy represents the pinnacle of the football program in the first 14 seasons after North and South combined into the new high school, but there’s one bigger trophy that would top it — one that would surely find a more prominent place in that trophy case. Springfield gets another chance to win it this week on the same field where it played in 2021 and against the same team. Even the day of the week and time of the game will be the same.

No. 4 Springfield (13-1) will play No. 1 Lakewood St. Edward (14-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Division I state championship game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

The game comes 364 days after Springfield lost 23-13 to St. Edward and coach Maurice Doulass said this in the postgame press conference: “We’ll miss these (seniors). We’ve got a good group coming back. (Te’Sean Smoot) is the hard part to replace on offense because he did so many things for us, but that’s the challenge you want to have, to keep rebuilding and keep reloading. We’ll be fine. We’ll be back.”

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Douglass, now in his ninth season with the program, has guided it two four state final four appearances in a row and two straight championship game appearances. He took Trotwood-Madison to the final game four times and won one championship in 2011.

A victory Friday would add an extra special chapter to the legacy of Douglass because no Clark County team has won a state football championship in the playoff era.

“Our mantra is, ‘Why not us?’” Douglass said Tuesday.

Springfield runs into a program that has won five of the last 11 Division I state championships. St. Edward last won two titles in a row in 2014 and 2015.

Springfield fell behind 16-0 and 23-7 last season. It could not get the ball moving on the ground and lost 30 yards on 20 carries. The senior quarterback Smoot, who now plays at Jacksonville State and appeared in two games as a freshman, threw for 349 yards but was intercepted twice.

Danny Enovitch, who rushed for 210 yards, starred for St. Edward. He now plays at Navy. St. Edward also has a new quarterback. Christian Ramos, who threw for 86 yards and ran for 60 in last year’s title game, graduated.

St. Edward replaced a number of starters but still won 14 games against a schedule that included Toledo Central Catholic (14-1), a state finalist in Division II, and Akron Hoban (14-1), the other D-II finalist. Both D-II finalists suffered their only loss against St. Edward.

Moeller, the team Springfield beat 28-24 in the state semifinals, lost 6-0 to St. Edward. Cherry Creek, a state finalists in Colorado, lost 13-9 to St. Edward.

“We really ran the gamut of playing a heck of a regular-season schedule,” St. Edward coach Tom Lombardo said. “We really couldn’t overlook anybody. We treated every week like it was a playoff game, and I think that helped us in the playoffs. I think we’ve kept that mentality.”

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The key returners for St. Edward from the 2021 state championship game are defensive ends Michael Kilbane and Wyatt Gideon, center Richard Wolverton and right tackle Ben Roebuck, Lombardo said.

“We lost a lot of senior starters last year and are playing a lot of underclassmen this year,” Lombardo said. “That was one of the challenges with the schedule that we went against. We did it with a fairly new team, and that takes some time.”

The offensive and defensive lines are a strength for St. Edward, Lombardo said. They have matched up well with everybody. He also said Springfield’s offensive style mitigates the defensive line’s strength to an extent because quarterback Bryce Schondelmyer gets the ball out so fast.

Lombardo praised the strength of Springfield’s defensive line as well.

“They’ve got (Jackson) Heims back from last year,” he said, “and they’ve got the other defensive end, Robert Owens, and a good nose guard, Isaiah Banks. I think those three guys do a pretty good job inside. The linebacking corps is super quick, led by (Jaivian) Norman. He played last year and had some hellacious hits and really gets to the ball well.”

Springfield’s defense made a number of big plays against Moeller. Linebacker Tawfig Jabbar intercepted a pass with 2:42 remaining.

“We’ve done a good job,” Douglass said. “It was really hard replacing Tywan (January) and Jokell (Brown), the D tackles from last year. But as the season went on, guys figured out their roles a little bit more and came into a little better understanding of what we were requiring of them. They’ve played great. (Defensive coordinator Conley) Smoot coached them up and got them mentally ready. On Friday night, they’ve been going out and performing. They’ve done a little better each week, and it builds up to this moment. Hopefully, Friday night they’ll do the same thing again and have their best outcome.”

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