Cameron Rountree was a difference maker Friday night, even if he didn’t have a clear view of how it all went down.
Springboro High School’s senior quarterback missed most of the first two quarters against host Middletown thanks to an eye injury, but he returned in the second half to power the Panthers’ rout.
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Rountree ran for one touchdown and threw for another as Springboro, which led 7-0 at the break, roared to a 37-0 nonleague football victory at rain-drenched Barnitz Stadium.
“The team needed me to go back in there, and I could see probably about 50 percent with my eye,” said Rountree, a Wright State University baseball commit. “All my receivers were doing well, and my offensive line was doing really good blocking. They gave me the holes to run and the separation to pass.”
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Rountree’s right eye got scratched by a Middie defender as he returned a punt in the first quarter. He stayed in for Springboro’s first play from scrimmage, took an 8-yard loss and then headed to the sideline.
“I looked over at my coach and said, ‘I can’t see.’ It was all black,” Rountree said. “It was a little scary. At first, I thought I went blind.”
Sophomore Landon Palmer replaced him at quarterback and led the Panthers’ to their lone first-half touchdown, a 27-yard pass to Eric Myers with 4:32 left in the opening period.
At halftime, Springboro coach Ryan Wilhite consulted his medical staff. That’s when the decision to let Rountree return to action was made.
“We’ve got a great medical staff and trainers,” Wilhite said. “They did a good job of getting him back together. At halftime, it was a matter of, ‘Is this safe? Is he at any kind of risk?’ Once we were able to rule all that stuff out, he felt confident that he could go out and play, and you certainly saw what he could do.”
Rountree’s mobility was a major pain for Middletown. He ran 11 times for 61 yards while completing 3 of 7 passes for 49 yards and a TD to Kris Hughes.
“He’s a very opportunistic runner,” Middies coach Lance Engleka said. “He converted some big third downs. That’s a kid making plays. All the credit goes to him for that.”
The Panthers (1-1) tallied 23 points in the third stanza, sending Middletown (0-2) to its 12th straight defeat.
“Getting Rountree back certainly sparked us. He’s a captain and a leader on our team for a reason,” Wilhite said. “I thought our defense played great throughout, special teams did a good job, and ball security on a wet night really kept us in the football game.”
Linebackers Payton Standifer and Joe Poelking were in on 12 and eight tackles, respectively. End Cameron Piper totaled seven tackles, four for loss.
“This week in practice was all about talking more and the fact that we just needed to grow as a defense and get plays made,” said Piper, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior. “That’s what I feel we did today.”
The Middies managed 138 total yards. Engleka used Zach Maloney (8 of 20, 46 yards) and Blake Marshall (1 of 4, 31 yards) at quarterback, and Diondre Cooper had 65 yards on 17 carries.
“When you only have eight first downs in a game, you’re going to try to find a spark someplace,” Engleka said. “Right now, the issues that we have don’t involve an opponent. They involve us. We need to be mentally better prepared.
“Particularly offensively, we did not have a good week of practice, and I think that obviously played itself out tonight. The score’s 7-0 at halftime, and it wasn’t so much that they were stopping us as we were stopping ourselves with penalties, missed alignments, just the mental part of the game.
“In the second half, our offense couldn’t get anything going, and we just put our defense on the field way too much. You can’t continually go three-and-out and expect your defense to get out of a hole every time.”
Ronnie Arthur ran seven times for 59 yards and two touchdowns for Springboro. Palmer was 7 of 18 for 74 yards through the air.
Wilhite conceded that using Rountree as a punt returner may not be the best idea.
“He’s a real competitor, but yeah, our preference wouldn’t be to do that,” Wilhite said. “Our intent was to fair-catch stuff, but it ended up being a ball that bounced and he tried to make a play because that’s who he is.”
Next Friday, the Middies will begin Greater Miami Conference play at home against Colerain, while the Panthers have a nonleague home game against Winton Woods.
S: Eric Myers 27 pass from Landon Palmer (Connor Luksic kick)
S: Kris Hughes 10 pass from Cameron Rountree (Luksic kick)
S: Safety, ball goes out of end zone on punt snap
S: Ronnie Arthur 1 run (Luksic kick)
S: Rountree 23 run (Luksic kick)
S: Arthur 1 run (Owen Brown kick)