Wildcats ready for playoff rematch with Firebirds

The Springfield High School football team will play in Week 11 for the first time since 2016 — and a familiar foe awaits.

The Wildcats (8-2) will host Fairmont (7-3) in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Friday at Evans Stadium. Last week, the Firebirds beat the Wildcats 14-7 to earn a playoff berth.

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“We’re blessed,” Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass. “We’re blessed to have an opportunity to be at home and win (a Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division title) we haven’t won in awhile and host a home game.”

This week, the loser will go home for good. The Firebirds have won the last two meetings, including a 7-3 victory in Week 10 last season that kept Springfield out of the playoffs.

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Douglass expects his team to play like there’s no tomorrow in what will be their final game of the season at Evans Stadium, he said. Springfield clinched both the division title and a playoff berth with a 33-26 overtime defeat of Wayne in Week 9.

“We’ve got to play sounder ball than we did (last week against Fairmont),” Douglass said. “We didn’t play with a sense of urgency last week. Now, we will play with our hair on fire.”

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The run-heavy Firebirds are led by senior running back Jesse Deglow, who ranks second in the 20-team GWOC with 1,429 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Fairmont has completed just 11 passes all season.

Springfield will rely on quarterback Raheim Moss (1,145 yards passing, 374 yards rushing) and running backs Tavion Smoot (863 yards, four TDs) and Jeff Tolliver (566 yards, eight TDs).

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Douglass and Fairmont coach Dave Miller know each other well. They were neighbors when they each lived in Clayton, Douglass said. Both have sons in their senior years; Fairmont QB Braden Miller and Springfield WR Moses Douglass, a University of Kentucky commit.

“I’ll be excited for both of our boys to play each other,” Douglass said. “They were best friends when they were coming up. It will be exciting. I’m happy for them.”

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The Wildcats’ schedule has prepared them for the postseason. They played seven games against teams that finished with winning records, including four playoff teams in Fairfield, Wayne, Northmont and Fairmont.

“The schedule played out really well for us,” said Douglass.

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Springfield High has advanced three times to the playoffs since North and South high schools combined in 2008, earning one victory in 2010. The Wildcats lost to Pickerington Central 35-14 in 2016.

Douglass expects a large crowd on Friday night in Springfield.

“It’s great to have a home game for the community and everyone here,” he said.

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