The Springfield High School football program’s goal all season has been to play in Week 15.
They’re one win away making that dream a reality.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats (12-1) will play ninth-ranked Cincinnati Elder (11-2) in the Division I state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Piqua Alexander Stadium.
In the other semifinal, D-I state poll champion Mentor (13-0) will play third-ranked Pickerington Central (12-1) at Canton GlenOak Bob Commings Field.
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The winners of the two semifinals will advance to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state football championships being held Dec. 5 through 7 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The dates and times of the seven state championship games will be announced Sunday.
With a victory, the Wildcats would become the third team in Clark County history to play for a state title, joining Catholic Central (1991) and Shawnee (2011).
Springfield can’t let up against one of the top D-I programs in southwest Ohio, said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass.
“That’s why we have to work for 48 minutes,” Douglass said. “If you do what you’re supposed to do these 48 minutes, you’ll do what you’ve desired to accomplish. You talk about 15 weeks, but you’ve got to win 14 to get to No. 15. It’s about paying attention to details and making sure we’re getting to the right spots. If we get aligned properly, we’ll be OK.”
Springfield enters the state semifinals on an 11-game winning streak. The Wildcats last loss came to Fairfield 16-12 on Sept. 6. Last week, the Wildcats beat Dublin Coffman 7-3 to win their first regional championship in program history.
Elder beat Colerain 28-21 in the D-I, Region 4 final last week to earn its sixth overall berth in the state semifinals and its first since 2009. The program won back-to-back state titles in 2002 and 2003.
The Panthers run a spread offense led by dual-threat senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe, who’s thrown for 2,747 yards and 25 TDs and rushed for 1,492 yards and 16 TDs this season. Senior tight end Joe Royer (1,159 receiving yards, 14 TDs) and senior offensive lineman Jakob James are both verbally committed to Ohio State University.
“They’ve got a real good system,” Douglass said. “They’ve been running it since (Coach Doug Ramsey) has been there in the early 2000s. He’s done a great job with those guys.”
The key will be getting lined up properly against Elder’s numerous formations, Douglass said.
“That’s the No. 1 thing for us,” he said. “They run so many different formations. Once we see the formations and get lined up to it, we’ve got to defeat the blocks and we’ve got to do a great job tackling.”
»PHOTOS: 2019 Springfield Wildcats season
Douglass advanced to the state tournament five times at Trotwood-Madison, winning a state championship in 2011. The key to playing on the biggest stage, he said, is keeping your composure.
“When negative things happen to you, you’ve got to persevere and trust that your teammates are going to do what they’re supposed to do and not lose your cool,” he said. “Sometimes, when a team makes a play on you at this level, kids usually go in the tank if they have a bad thing happen. It’s about keeping your composure and just playing with the persistence you’ve been playing with throughout the year.”
»RELATED: State semifinal matchups
The Wildcats won’t hold back with a trip to Canton on their minds, said senior defensive tackle Robert Holtz.
“It’s a big experience,” he said. “For us to be here, it’s really a great thing for the city. All we’ve got to do is stay focused and we can go to an even bigger stage.”
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