High School Football: Rugged GWOC schedule begins -- ‘you better be ready to play’

Maurice Douglass’ first wish every week is to get to Friday with a game still to play.

Two weeks ago, Springfield’s game was canceled because of COVID issues at Fairfield. The Wildcats were unable to find another opponent on short notice.

Last week the same thing happened when Trotwood-Madison had to back out early in the week. After reaching out to at least 30 schools, the Wildcats finally found a game at Lima Senior. The Wildcats won 46-6.

“If nothing else, the last two weeks have taught us to be thankful for today,” Douglass said.

No coaches in the Greater Western Ohio Conference will confuse Friday with Thanksgiving. Friday is the day the GWOC gauntlet begins. For Springfield (2-0), it begins at Wayne (2-1). Douglass will see his team tested in the GWOC for an eighth season, and his experience in the league goes back to his time at Trotwood.

“Ain’t no easy weeks,” Douglass said. “This is like every other year. You better be ready to play.”

The Wildcats, who reached the Division I semifinals last year, are led for a third straight season by quarterback Te’Sean Smoot. He’s the team’s second-leading rusher and is completing 44% of his passes. That’s down from 59.2% last year, but most of Smoot’s best receivers are injured.

Junior Anthony Brown, one of the highest rated receivers in Ohio, senior Dominic Turner and junior Daylen Bradley were injured in the opener. Douglass said he hopes all of them will return in the next two weeks. That leaves Shawn Thigpen, who has nine receptions and two touchdowns, as the only experienced receiver.

“He’s throwing to some young guys and guys who have never played on Friday night until now,” Douglass said. “He’s doing what he has to do as a leader.”

The defense is loaded with experience at each level. Tywan January is in the middle of the 3-4 front with Jokell Brown at one end. Jaivian Norman leads the linebackers and Delian Bradley is a fourth-year starter at safety. Micha’ Johnson and Aaron Scott man the corners, Christian McMillan is the other safety, Fate Smith, Tyron Barnes and Tawfig Jabbar are the other linebackers and freshman Jackson Heims is the other end.

“We’ve got a great team coming in here that’s going to be well-coached and going to compete,” Wayne coach Roosevelt Mukes said. “So we have to match their intensity.”

Wayne is coming off a 28-12 loss to Canton McKinley, but the Warriors established a running game that Douglass knows his front seven must be ready for. Running back Jordan Ward has rushed for 392 yards. Bryan Kinley, who caught six passes from freshman Tyrell Lewis in the first two games, replaced Lewis last week at quarterback and rushed for 131 yards behind the Warriors’ highly recruited offensive line.

“Wayne’s got a good team and got a lot of talent,” Douglass said. “We’re going to have to come out and play really smart and wise football.”

In other games:

Miamisburg at Centerville: Miamisburg (3-0) is one of four unbeaten GWOC teams and Centerville (2-1) has only last week’s last-second loss at Gahanna Lincoln. The Elks’ Chase Harrison is leading the GWOC in passing yards, and the Vikings are second in the league in rushing led by Christian Davis.

Northmont at Fairmont: Fairmont (3-0) has flourished with Drew Baker, the GWOC’s leading rusher with 541 yards, the leadership of quarterback Male’k Hillon, a strong offensive line and a defense that has allowed 4.7 points a game. Northmont (2-0) is leading the league in offensive yards per game.

Xenia at Piqua: Two unbeaten teams meet with eyes on winning their respective divisions in the Miami Valley League. Offensively, Piqua is doing it on the ground behind senior running back Jasiah Medley, and Xenia is leaning on freshman quarterback Gavin McManus and junior receiver Tremell Wright.

Carlisle at Franklin: Carlisle (3-0) has allowed only 13 points and controls the ball with running backs Talon Borders (424 yards) and Brice Naylor (326 yards). Franklin (2-1) also leans on the running game and has rebounded from an opening loss to Fenwick.

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