PIQUA — The Springfield Wildcats are headed back to Canton.
The Wildcats rallied a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Cincinnati Moeller 28-24 in a Division I state semifinal game on Friday night at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium, advancing to the state final for the second straight season.
“I’m just excited for the city of Springfield to do things that this community deserves,” said Springfield coach Maurice Douglass. “That’s what I’m happiest about. We’ve got one more. We’re going to get this one. It’s our turn. It’s our turn. It’s Springfield’s turn.”
Springfield (13-1) advanced to face Lakewood St. Edward (14-1) in the D-I state final at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The Eagles beat Gahanna Lincoln 31-7 in the other state semifinal at Mansfield’s Arlin Field.
Springfield senior quarterback Bryce Schondelmyer went 17-for-29 for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Senior wide receivers Anthony Brown and Shawn Thigpen each had two TD receiving TDs for the Wildcats.
Junior running back Jordan Marshall rushed for 168 yards and three TDs for Moeller (13-2).
On the opening possession of the second half, Schondelmyer hit Brown on a 32-yard TD pass to tie the score at 14. Marshall countered with an 18-yard TD run to give the Crusaders a 21-14 lead.
Springfield tied the score on an 8-yard TD pass from Schondelmyer to Thigpen with 9:53 remaining to tie the score at 21.
After Moeller’s Drew Mitchell hit a 42-yard field goal to the give the Crusaders a 24-21 lead, Schondelmyer hit Brown on a 48-yard TD pass with 4:13 remaining to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
“They were able to hit some big plays in the second half and that was the big difference,” said Moeller coach Mark Elder.
Springfield senior linebacker Tawfig Jabbar intercepted a pass with 2:42 remaining to give the ball back to the Wildcats. After Moeller called its final timeout, junior Jayvin Norman broke free for a 28-yard first down run to seal the game for Springfield.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Schondelmyer said. “I’ve always wanted to go to a state championship. It’s unbelievable that we’re going. I can’t wait for practice this week. I’m so excited for next Friday night.”
Moeller jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its opening possession. The Crusaders drove 62 yards on 10 plays, resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run by Marshall.
Midway through the second quarter, Springfield took possession on Moeller’s 30-yard line after a shanked punt. A few plays later, Schondelmyer hit Thigpen on a 22-yard TD pass to tie the score at 7-7.
Moeller responded on its next possession, scoring on a 7-yard TD run by Marshall to give Moeller a 14-7 halftime lead.
After the game, Springfield senior Daylen Bradley had a message for his teammates — the Wildcats have one more hill to climb. A year ago, Lakewood St. Edward beat the Wildcats 23-13 in Springfield’s first-ever state championship game appearance.
“We want the ring! We want the ring!” Bradley said.