Centerville looks for different result in rematch vs. Springfield

Elks, Wildcats face off in Division I regional semifinals

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Centerville enters Friday night’s rematch with Springfield with a new offensive identity. The Elks weren’t seeking a change in the middle of the season, but when quarterback Drake Wells was injured and lost for the year, change wasn’t a choice.

The week before the Elks played Springfield, Wells started and the Elks beat Beavercreek 37-6 to improve to 6-1. After Wells, a 6-foot-1, 192-pound junior, was knocked out of the game, he was replaced by 5-8, 160-pound sophomore Braylon Newcomb. And the offense changed.

Third-seeded Centerville (10-2) and its new style will be tested at 7 p.m. Friday by Greater Western Ohio Conference champion and second-seeded Springfield (10-1) in the Division I, Region 2 semifinals at Northmont.

Wells completed 63.5% of his passes for 1,184 yards and eight touchdowns in his seven starts. He rushed for 105 yards on 2.2 yards per carry. The next week against Springfield, in his first start, Newcomb was 4 of 14 for 52 yards in a 38-10 loss to the Wildcats. But there was a bright spot.

Newcomb rushed for 109 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown. Since, he has rushed for 75, 31, 125 and 121 yards for a total of 515 and a 5.9 yards-per-carry average. Springfield coach Maurice Douglass has seen the film and noticed an offense running the ball more with zone read and run-pass option plays, giving Newcomb the freedom to read the defense and decide the best way to run the play.

Newcomb doesn’t throw the ball as much or with as much accuracy as Wells did, but he’s been efficient enough and made big plays, including the final-seconds touchdown pass to beat Wayne on the final night of the regular season. Newcomb has completed 57.8% of his passes for 530 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. In two playoff games, the Elks have won 34-21 and 42-21 while barely outgaining their opponents.

“(Newcomb) is doing a great job and he gets better every week obviously,” Centerville coach Brent Ullery said. “He’s learning more of the offense every week. The offense is adapting to what he does best every week, so that’s also cool to see the offense evolve every week. (Quarterbacks coach Mike Savino) is a phenomenal quarterbacks coach, and he’s done a phenomenal job bringing him along as well as our backups. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

Defense has been part of the Elks’ identity all season. They have three shutouts and allow an average of 14 points a game. The Elks are ahead in turnover margin 24-18 with 17 interceptions that have led to lots of good field position and four returns for touchdowns.

“When your defense keeps giving you the ball back, you’re going to score more points,” Ullery said. “Our defense has done an awesome job of getting off the field and giving us opportunities. It’s been a total team effort.”

Springfield’s offensive identity is the passing game. Quarterback Bryce Schondelmyer led the GWOC in every passing category with 3,530 yards, 37 touchdowns and a 68.7 completion percentage. He has two 1,000-yard receivers in Kentucky-bound Anthony Brown and Daylen Bradley. They have combined for 26 touchdowns. The Wildcats have thrown the ball 100 more times than they have run it.

“We’ve got to eliminate our mistakes and keep the game in front of us and give ourselves a chance,” Ullery said. “We can’t really shoot ourselves in the foot. We can’t go three-and-out and we have to get off the field (on defense). We can’t give up a bunch of points.”

In other games:

Tippecanoe (11-1) vs. Mount Orab Western Brown (11-1): Western Brown senior quarterback Drew Novak will test Tipp’s pass defense in a way it’s never been tested on Friday night at Bellbrook in a Division III, Region 12 semifinal.

Novak, a 6-foot-6 senior and four-year starter, passed for 3,455 yards, 33 touchdowns and completed 68.2% of his passes during the regular season. He also rushed for 863 yards and 14 touchdowns. Novak has more production around him this season on the second-seeded Broncos. As a junior he passed for over 5,000 yards and 56 touchdowns, while rushing for over 1,200 yards.

No. 3 seed Tipp will rely on a balanced offense led by quarterback Liam Poronsky, receivers Evan Liette and Stanley Clyne and running back Xavier Jones. Everything came together for Tipp this year more than expected. They lost 19 of 22 starters from 2021′s 10-3 team and won the Miami Valley League Miami Division.

“It’s amazing because a bunch of people that were sitting and watching this team have success last year were so hungry to go and be successful too,” Poronsky said. “I realized that in April and May when we had 50, 60 guys showing up to offseason workouts and going down to the field to get extra reps every chance we could. I knew we were going to be special no matter who doubted us.”

Milton-Union (11-0) vs. Brookville (11-1): Milton-Union’s unbeaten season led to a No. 2 seed on the strength of 18 seniors with the goal of winning the state title. The Bulldogs have been dominant, allowing only 54 points and scoring over 500. Their only close game was a week two 24-14 victory at top-seeded Valley View.

On Friday, the Bulldogs face No. 6 Brookville (11-1) at Doug Adams Stadium in Xenia. If Milton-Union wins, they might get a rematch with top-seeded Valley View (11-1). The Spartans face No. 5 Cincinnati Madeira (11-1) at Fairfield.

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