For the second straight season, the Springfield High School football team are Greater Western Ohio Conference division champions.
Wildcats senior Jeff Tolliver rushed for a career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns — including two scores in the fourth quarter — to help Springfield clinch a 41-28 victory over rival Centerville on Thursday night at Springfield High School.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games,” said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass said. “He stepped up big for us today. I’m so happy for him.”
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Springfield sophomore quarterback Te’Sean Smoot went 15-for-25 for 279 yards and two TD passes, both to senior wideout Larry Stephens. The Toledo commit caught nine passes for 207 yards — both career-highs.
Centerville sophomore quarterback Chase Harrison scored accounted for four total touchdowns, including three through the air. He went 29-for-47 for a career-high 365 yards and three TD passes and also scored on a 1-yard run. Elks wide receiver Will Linkhart caught 12 passes for 205 yards — both career-highs — and two TDs, while Cameron Smith caught nine passes for 116 yards and two TDs for the Elks (4-4, 2-2).
Tolliver and senior teammate Tay’Veon Smoot each rushed for TDs and Te’Sean Smoot found Stephens for two TD passes in the first half to give the Wildcats a 27-7 lead at the break.
Centerville, however, didn’t leave Clark County without putting up a fight. Harrison threw a 17-yard TD pass to Smith and rushed for a 1-yard TD run to pull within six at 27-21 with 8:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
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“I was really pleased with their effort, their fight,” said Elks coach Brent Ullery. “When it came down to it, we didn’t make enough plays and gave up too many. Springfield is an explosive team and they make you pay for those things.”
On Springfield’s next possession, Tolliver took a handoff to the right, but was stopped by several Elks defenders. He reversed field and took the ball 43 yards into the Elks red zone. A few plays later, he scored on a 20-yard run to make it 34-21.
“I was just trying to see the hole and hit it, make the best of it,” Tolliver said. “It’s always about keeping your legs moving and seeing what you can get and that’s what I did.”
The Elks stormed back again as Harrison found Linkhart on a 65-yard bomb on fourth down to make it 34-28 with 5:23 remaining.The Elks then recovered a fumble in their own territory late in the fourth quarter, but were stopped on fourth down.
“We hung around a little bit, but when you don’t play fundamentally sound and you don’t play a great game against a team like that, they’re going to make you pay,” Ullery said.
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Tolliver scored on a 30-yard run a few plays later to seal the victory for Springfield, the seventh-ranked team in this week's Division I state poll.
The Wildcats (7-1, 3-0) clinched at least a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American Division title. Douglass had a clear message for his team after its sluggish performance.
“The good thing about it is that we won,” Douglass said. “But sometimes you’ve got to get humbled a little bit. We started to smell ourselves a little bit after last week, got a little shutout (against Springboro). We didn’t practice with a sense of urgency this week. Guys were kind of going through the motions … It was a good humbling moment.”
Springfield can clinch an outright conference title with a victory at Wayne (2-5, 1-1) next week. The Wildcats and the Warriors shared the GWOC National East Division title last season.
“It was spotty,” Douglass said. “I won’t say we didn’t do good things defensively in the first half. In the second half, we weren’t as focused as they should’ve been. But if you do that during the week, that’s what you’re going to get (during the game). Hopefully they learn from it.”
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