Springfield football coach Maurice Douglass expected his defensive players would know what kind of competitors they needed to be at the start of the season.
The Wildcats have been playing that kind of defense, holding three opponents to an average of 13 points and 208.3 yards. On Friday, the Wildcats defeated Hudson – a perennial playoff team from Northeast Ohio – 16-10 to start 3-0 for the second straight season.
“The team that we’re playing is going to know that they’ve been in a battle because we’re going to hit you,” Douglass said.
With the defensive identity established, the offense is getting closer to knowing who it is.
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Douglass entered the season with two quarterbacks, but now he has one. Senior Raheim Moss has emerged as the leader, playing the position for the first time since he was a freshman. Douglass said Moss is making good decisions in the run-pass options that have become integral to most offenses.
Moss completed 12 of 20 passes for 177 yards and rushed 12 times for 69 yards against Hudson. Moss, who is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and is a Division I prospect on defense, and freshman Te’Sean Smoot shared the position in the first two games. Smoot still might get some opportunities this season.
“The offense seems to flow more smoothly with Raheim at quarterback,” Douglass said. “And he’s a bigger kid and the physical aspect is just a little bit better for us right now. Because he’s so athletic and so big, he’s been able to crease some people on the run.”
In recent seasons, the Wildcats had a limited number of playmakers. Two years ago it was mostly Danny Davis as a running back and receiver. Last year it was Caleb Johnson as a receiver and Tavion Smoot running the ball.
This year its Smoot, Moss and Jeff Tolliver, who scored two touchdowns against Hudson, that defenses have to plan for. Michael Brown-Stephens, a senior who has committed to Minnesota, and Larry Stephens, a junior, lead a group of six receivers who have caught at least two passes.
“Now we have more talent than we’ve had since I’ve been here across the board,” Douglass said. “Now you’re going to have defend the whole field. That’s something that’s going to work to our advantage.”
With this identity taking shape, Douglass said the offense is starting to look like what he and his offensive coaches envisioned.
“You have thoughts in your mind of what you want to do offensively, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way and it just takes a little longer for it to start clicking,” Douglass said. “And I believe right now we’re getting closer. You can see positive things coming on offense.”
The Wildcats play only four conference games in the difficult GWOC National East, but the first one is Friday at Centerville. The Elks are 0-3 for the first time since 2001. They have losses to Fairfield, Lakota West and Alter. Springfield defeated Fairfield 15-14 a week after Fairfield opened with a 49-21 win over Centerville. The Wildcats have beaten the Elks only once since 2009.
“They haven’t had much success against Centerville in the past to think like that,” Douglass said. “They’re not an 0-3 team when you watch them on film. They’ve been in every game that they’ve played.”