Quarterbacks headline Springfield-Centerville clash

In a season that could have many big Greater Western Ohio Conference games, Centerville-Springfield gets the spotlight this week.

Both teams are 1-0 after hard-fought victories to open the season, and now both have a chance for an early signature win in a truncated regular season.

ExploreTakeaways from Week 1

While Springfield is looking to provide another example it can defend its back-to-back conference championships and make another deep playoff run, Centerville is hoping to put back-to-back losing seasons in the rearview mirror and show it belongs in the conversation for a title this year along with the likes of the Wildcats, Northmont and Springboro.

“It’s a true coin flip at this point to see who comes out of this alive, but I think that makes it exciting,” Centerville coach Brent Ullery said of the GWOC race.

ExploreElks top Firebirds to open season

After contending with Fairmont’s triple-option offense in a 21-20 victory last week, the Elks will be tasked with slowing down Springfield’s multiple attack — and that’s fine with Centerville senior defensive lineman Josef Schwade.

“I’m excited. As a defensive linemen it was hard facing the triple-option with the cut blocks and everything,” Schwade said. “I assume the rest of the team is excited because it’s a more traditional offense and we just enjoy hitting people.”

“Springfield is a very physical team, and I would say so are we. It’s just a matter of who is more physical at the end of the day.”

After having to adjust to various protocols put in place by the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Week 1, this week figures to seem more normal (despite those protocols remaining in place).

“We felt incredibly grateful to get to Week 1,” Ullery said. “Per the governor’s orders and everything, we felt it was an awesome opportunity, and right now I would say it feels more like the season. We wear masks and we social distance and all those types of things, but now we’re in the groove. Now you’ve got to get better every week. You know where you’re at, where you want to be and you’ve got to start taking steps toward that.”

Where the Elks want to be is where Springfield was the last two seasons — atop the conference standings.

With junior quarterback Chase Harrison headlining an experienced offense, that is a reasonable expectation despite the challenges the GWOC promises to present on a weekly basis.

“He’s developed quite a bit from last year,” Ullery said. “We kind of went back to fundamentals this summer and said we were going to get stronger, get quicker. We’re gonna allow you to run around a little bit more and he’s taken ownership over that. He’s gotten a lot better. He’s run the offense a lot more like a returning starter and less like a young guy.”

He threw for 85 yards and ran for a touchdown against the Firebirds, though Cameron Smith’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and Jackson Courville’s PAT kick proved to be the difference.

“We just didn’t execute very well,” Ullery said. “I’m sure (Fairmont) had their own mistakes, too, but we didn’t play very well and that’s why you saw a lack of production.”

ExploreSpringfield opens with tight win over Wayne

Springfield, which has won two in a row against the Elks after losing nine of the previous 10 in the series, beat Wayne 21-14 last week with a balanced offensive attack piloted by quarterback Te’Sean Smoot.

He completed 16 of 27 passes for 226 yards and added 87 more on ground while adjusting to a mostly new supporting cast.

“What he does with the ball in his hands, knowing when to throw and when to extend the play, he’s much better than he was last year,” Ullery said. “I think he was a really good player last year, but he’s pushing being a great player already this year.”

Like Harrison, Smoot is a junior getting attention from college scouts, but the Elks’ signal-caller said that won’t add any juice to the game from his standpoint.

“I love the competition but it’s just another week,” Harrison said. “Te’Sean’s obviously a really good quarterback, but we’ve just got to do our job and do what we’ve got to do to get a win.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Harrison entered his junior season with three scholarship offers — Louisville, Toledo and Penn — but has interest from many major programs.

Alabama, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Wake Forest, Kentucky and Cincinnati were among teams to reach out to him this week.

“There’s a couple schools here and there, but right now I’m just keeping my options open,” he said. “I look at the academics and what the vibe is at the school.”

Like many players, Harrison and Smoot missed the usual opportunities to impress college coaches over the summer because of restrictions on recruiting, but games like this offer a chance to showcase their skills.

“It was definitely difficult not being able to get in front of the coaches and throw, but it’s just something you’ve go to adapt to,” Harrison said. “I think it’s fair game because literally everyone is going through it. You’ve just got to go out and compete and do what you do and I believe you’ll get recognized no matter what.”

He’s also taking the lead when it comes to anti-COVID protocols, hoping to set an example for teammates and classmates.

“If I’m not following the rules why would anyone else?” Harrison said. “Right now it’s just as important as what you put out on social media or what your friends see you doing, so right now I just try to keep my distance, try and stay with my family and my group so that I set a good example for everyone else.”

Other games to watch

Fairmont at Northmont

Xenia at Troy

Badin at Alter

Fairmont at Northmont

West Carrollton at Fairborn

Bellefontaine at Springfield Shawnee

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