High school football: Loaded Wildcats excited about possibilities this season, but still have ‘work to do’

Cutline: Springfield High School's Jokell Brown brings down Toledo Whitmer quarterback Tommy Colbert during their Division I, Region 2 playoff game on Friday, Oct. 9. The Wildcats won 27-17. Brown is one of 24 seniors reurning for the Wildcats this fall. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
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Cutline: Springfield High School's Jokell Brown brings down Toledo Whitmer quarterback Tommy Colbert during their Division I, Region 2 playoff game on Friday, Oct. 9. The Wildcats won 27-17. Brown is one of 24 seniors reurning for the Wildcats this fall. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

Springfield has advanced to Division I state semifinals the last two years

SPRINGFIELD — After back-to-back appearances in the Division I state semifinals, the Springfield High School football team has one massive goal in 2021 — Week 16.

The Wildcats return 24 seniors from a squad that went 8-2 and lost 12-10 to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the state semifinals.

This fall, the goal is to break through the state semifinal barrier and play for a state championship in Week 16 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

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“We’ve got a good opportunity, but you’ve got to go out there and win every day,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “You’ve got to get better every day in practice, you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to study film. We’ve got work to do.”

Each team is a new group, Douglass said, and the seniors must set the tone. The players from the previous two state semifinal teams aren’t walking through the door, he said.

“(The seniors) have got to create their own identity and it’s up to them what they want to do,” Douglass said.

The Wildcats open the season with a tough test in northeast Ohio powerhouse Cleveland St. Ignatius in one of the biggest non-conference games in program history.

St. Ignatius has won 11 state championships and four national championships in its storied history.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Douglass said. “They’ve got great tradition. They’re a historical program. (Coach Chuck Kyle) has all kinds of titles. I’m excited about it and excited for our kids to be in this position.”

St. Ignatius — whose mascot is also the Wildcats — started last season 1-3, which included a 62-37 loss to eventual state champion St. Xavier. In the postseason, St. Ignatius advanced to the D-1, Region 1 final, falling to Medina 33-26.

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St. Ignatius will run multiple formations on offense, including spread and double tight end sets, Douglass said.

“They’ll do a little bit of everything and try to keep you off balance,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice challenge,”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Springfield High School. Tickets can be purchased online at ticketspicket.com by searching Springfield High School. The direct link can also be found at gwocsports.com.

The Wildcats faced another regional powerhouse in its first scrimmage game, beating Louisville (Ky.) Trinity 17-0 through three quarters. The Shamrocks are the defending 6A Kentucky state champions. The victory proved what the Wildcats are capable of now and in the future, Douglass said.

“We can be that type of a program, we just have to try to continue to work and strive every day,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll reach that goal.”

After two heartbreaking losses in the state semifinals, Springfield has big expectations this fall. While the goal is Week 16, the Wildcats won’t be looking forward, Douglass said.

“We just take them one at a time,” he said. “We just want to try to improve every day. Little by little, we’ll get closer to getting to the ultimate goal of winning a state championship.”

Here’s a look at other Week 1 games:

Valley View at Shawnee: The Braves will face a tough task against the Spartans, who fell to Wyoming in the D-IV, Region 16 semifinals last season.

Lancaster Fairfield Christian at Catholic Central: The Irish are seeking their third straight victory after finishing last season with wins against Ridgedale and Ridgemont.

Cleves Taylor at Greenon: The Knights will face the Yellowjackets for the first time in school history. Taylor went 3-5 last season, including a 49-6 victory over Northwestern.

Bradford at Northeastern: The Jets are looking to win their season opener for the second straight season.

Worthington Christian at Southeastern: The Trojans are seeking revenge after falling to the Warriors 21-20 on a last-second touchdown last season.

Tecumseh at Fairborn: The Arrows-Skyhawks season-opening rivalry resumes after last year’s game was canceled as part of the shortened season. Since 2007, Tecumseh leads the series 9-4.

Kenton Ridge at Mechanicsburg: The Cougars have lost two straight to the Indians, falling in both 2018 and 2019.

Fayetteville at Cedarville: The Indians will host the Rockets in Cedarville coach Austin Steward’s second head-coaching debut with the program.

Middletown Madison at Greeneview: The Rams nearly played Madison in the 2018 playoffs, but fell to Wheelersburg in a D-V regional semifinal game.

Benjamin Logan at Triad: The Cardinals won four of their last five games last season, including a playoff victory over National Trail.

West Jefferson at Urbana: The Hillclimbers are seeking their first victory since Week 10 of 2018.

Graham at West Liberty-Salem: The Tigers have won three straight games against the Falcons.