High school football: Springfield Wildcats looking toward fall with high hopes

Expectations are high for Springfield High School football in 2021.

If there were any doubts, a recent trip to the grocery store erased them for coach Maurice Douglass.

“A guy comes up to me and says, ‘Coach, it’s state championship or bust!’” Douglass recalled with a laugh.

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Such sentiment is understandable.

The Wildcats, who lost in the Division I state semifinals the past two seasons, return a large percentage of last year’s squad, including standout quarterback Te’Sean Smoot and defensive back Delian Bradley.

They have weapons galore for Smoot to utilize, a veteran offensive line and notable veterans at every level of the defense.

Springfield High School football players watch film after working out during the summer.
Springfield High School football players watch film after working out during the summer.

Credit: Marcus Hartman

Credit: Marcus Hartman

But Douglass, who took Trotwood-Madison to the state championship game four times and won it once, knows there is more to getting to December than bringing back lots of familiar faces in July.

And now so does the man he encountered at the grocery.

“I said, ‘Man, listen: We’ve got to start over. Every year’s brand new. We just try to win ‘em week by week and just try to make it through to that time of the year,” Douglass said.

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While Douglass knows what it takes to get a team to the promised land, he is still trying to instill that in his current players, and this year he is borrowing an idea from Ohio State he thinks could help.

As the Buckeyes devote a part of every practice to preparing for their rivalry game against Michigan, the Wildcats will have a special period designed to help them get to state championship weekend this year. For Springfield, that means both focusing on executing the little things and preparing some special plays to be saved for late November or early December.

“We’ve got some plays that will not be run all year until we get to week 14 or 15 that nobody will have seen all year, but they’re just for that case,” Douglass said. “I went to Ohio State practice, and every day they’ve got their ‘Team Up North’ period. We’re going to do something similar to that, and that’s going to be for us the Week 15 or 14 period. We’ll just work on those specific plays that won’t be used all year, but that period will be a point of emphasis for our guys just get them over that hump.”

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Smoot led the GWOC in passing yards last season (2,269) and was third in rushing (603). He has more than a dozen Division I scholarship offers and hopes to add more this fall, but team goals are front and center at this point in the year.

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Smoot should have no shortage of weapons.

The running back group has some new faces Douglass did not yet want to detail, but a pair of juniors with Division I college potential figure to be Smoot’s top targets: Anthony Brown and Shawn Thigpen.

The offensive line looks promising, too.

“We have the most linemen that we’ve probably ever had since I’ve been here,” said Douglass, who in the past has talked about the need to develop depth up front by getting more big guys in the weight room and then onto the field.

Springfield High School junior quarterback Te'Sean Smoot throws the ball during the Wildcats 31-19 victory over Wayne on Friday night in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Springfield High School junior quarterback Te'Sean Smoot throws the ball during the Wildcats 31-19 victory over Wayne on Friday night in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Seniors Vasean Washington, Tayden Harper and ZyAaron Woodruff return from last season, and Douglass is looking for senior Joe Abston and junior Sean Ivey to play big roles up from this fall after choosing not to play last season because of concerns about COVID-19.

“We will be very, very solid on the offensive line,” the coach said.

Stout seniors Tywan January and Jokell Brown provide building blocks on the defensive line, a 30 front that Douglass said will also feature some sophomores with big potential, while Jaivian Norman returns at linebacker after leading the team with 77 tackles last season as a sophomore.

Bradley is the big name in the secondary. He has more than 20 Division I scholarship offers after posting 66 tackles and six interceptions last season playing mostly free safety.

Douglass said they will expand his role this fall, allowing him to play closer to the line of scrimmage a la former Steelers great Troy Polamalu or current Seahawks standout Jamal Adams.

“With him being such a smart football player, we’re gonna try to take advantage of that,” Douglass said.

The coach praised the leadership Bradley and Smoot already have shown as they prepare for their last season in blue and gold.

“Those guys are two of the more highly respected guys on our team from a work ethic standpoint,” Douglass said. “So guys being able to look at somebody to see what those kids have been able to accomplish the last three years, if they challenge them or hold them accountable to something, it makes it a lot easier for these kids to be able to respond to it and deal with adversity.”