Smoot tosses three touchdown passes, Wildcats hold off Wayne

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Last year Te’Sean Smoot was the young quarterback aided by talented seniors to throw and hand off to. That team won 12 games and reached the Division I regional final. Now he’s a junior and the veteran with an inexperienced cast.

“This 2020 team everybody was saying they weren’t that great, nobody knew who they were, there weren’t no playmakers,” Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass said. “But this is Springfield. We’re still going to have dudes.”

One of those dudes is a senior who had over 1,000 receiving yards last year. But Ben Van Noord is a transfer from Northwestern with no previous experience with Smoot. One of the young dudes is Anthony Brown, a sophomore with little varsity experience. But he has good pass-catching genes. His brother, Mike Brown-Stephens, played for the Wildcats and now plays for Minnesota.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Smoot, Van Noord and Brown teamed up for the big plays that sparked the Wildcats to a 21-14 season-opening win over Greater Western Ohio Conference rival Wayne on Friday night.

“We’ve got a lot of players that can make plays,” Smoot said. “They can turn nothing into something. It’s good knowing I’ve got different people I can move the ball around to, and they’re all going to make a play.”

After leading 21-7 at halftime, the Wildcats had to hang on as quarterback Cam Fancher almost brought the Warriors all the way back. After Springfield botched the snap on a field-goal attempt, Fancher took his team from its 12 with 1:43 left to the Springfield 22 with 15 seconds left. He threw to the end zone three times but the Wildcats’ secondary stopped him.

“The secondary that I face in practice is the best secondary in the state,” Smoot said. “They can all buckle down and go man-to-man not give anything up.”

Smoot completed 16 of 27 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns.

“That’s QB1 right there – his arm, he’s a dual threat, knows how to get out of the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield,” Brown said.

The first score was a 37-yard post pattern to a wide-open Van Noord 57 seconds into the game.

After Wayne tied the score on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1 by Tyler Dorsey, Smoot came back with a 46-yarder to Brown down the right sideline on second-and-26. Brown got two steps on his man and couldn’t be caught.

The Wildcats got the ball back at the Wayne 41 with 28 seconds left in the first half. Smoot scrambled to the 23 and a late-hit penalty put the ball at the 13. Smoot hit Van Noord on a fade to the right side of the end zone for a 21-7 lead with two secods left in the half.

“We knew it was coming,” Wayne coach Roosevelt Mukes said of the big pass plays. “We have to understand the game and not play bump and run. We’ll learn from it.”

Springfield outgained Wayne 329-264. Fancher threw for 181 yards for Wayne had hit top targets RJ Mukes six times and tight end Elijah Brown five times. The Warriors, however, had opportunities before the final drive to tie the score, but mistakes, including some of the 10 penalties they committed for 92 yards, put them in long third- and fourth-down situations.

“It was things that we did to ourselves in crucial situations,” Coach Mukes said. “We can’t keep using the excuse that we’re young. That excuse is out the window now.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

There were no scrimmages to prepare for the season, and it showed at times. Springfield had 13 penalties for 120 yards. But just getting to play was a victory for both teams.

“For us to be able to get out here and do what we were able to do today,” Douglass said, “I’m so thankful for our kids getting the opportunity to get the film they need for their college recruitment and for the demeanor of the whole city.”

Mukes said: “The kids get to do something that they love to do, and for me that’s what it’s about. It’s about the kids. We’ll continue to grow and get better, and hopefully continue to play this game.”

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