Springfield beats Lima Senior; 3-0 for first time since merger

Springfield Tavion Smoot dives into the end zone for a Wildcats touchdown against Lima Senior in the second half Friday. Bill Lackey/Staff

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Springfield Tavion Smoot dives into the end zone for a Wildcats touchdown against Lima Senior in the second half Friday. Bill Lackey/Staff

The Springfield High School football team accomplished something it hadn’t done since North and South merged back in 2008 — start the season with three straight victories.

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Springfield survived six turnovers to improve to 3-0, beating Lima Senior 19-17 at Evans Stadium on Friday night. The Wildcats’ victory came without many style points, but that didn’t bother coach Maurice Douglass.

“We’re excited to be 3-0,” he said. “You’ve got to take them ugly, too. All it is is you just want to win. It may look ugly, but there are things we can come back and work from. It wasn’t anything we can’t come back and change with hard work.”

Springfield trailed 17-13 with 8:35 remaining in the fourth quarter when sophomore Jeff Tolliver returned a punt 52 yards to put the Wildcats on the Lima Senior 4-yard line. One play later, senior quarterback Leonard Taylor scored to give Springfield a 19-17 lead it would never relinquish.

The Wildcats lost four fumbles, threw two interceptions and gave up 11 penalties. With young players in key spots, mistakes are going to happen, Douglass said.

“At the end of the day, we got the W and that’s what we’re excited about,” he said.

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The Wildcats struck first when Taylor hit receiver William Finch III from 26 yards out on a fourth-down play to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

After the Wildcats muffed a punt deep in their own territory, Lima Senior quarterback Adrine Mitchell tied the game with a 10-yard scramble early in the second quarter.

The Wildcats threatened twice before the end of the half, but an interception by Lima Senior’s Jaleel Long on the 1-yard line and a fumble by Taylor stalled both drives.

Lima Senior’s Jaleel King returned the second-half kickoff to the 35-yard line. One play later, Spartans senior running back Xavier Nichols took it to the house to give Lima Senior its first lead.

On the next drive, the Wildcats began pounding the ball to sophomore tailback Tavion Smoot, who rushed for 163 yards on 20 carries.

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“That gave us the momentum for the second half,” Douglass said. “We just wanted to let people know we can pound people and for our kids to know when it gets to tough times, we can do this. I think our guys did a great job today of executing the offensive game plan in the second half.”

Smoot broke multiple tackles on a stretch play, scoring from five yards out to bring the Wildcats within one point at 14-13.

“I had faith in my line,” Smoot said. “They started blocking really well. We had to trust the process and keep grinding.”

Another Wildcats turnover gave the Spartans the ball back in Springfield territory. The Wildcats held on third down and the Spartans opted to kick a 24-yard field goal by Cole Mericle to make it 17-13.

Lima Senior twice drove the ball into Springfield territory in final four minutes, but an interception by Springfield’s Raheim Moss with :49 seconds remaining sealed the win for the Wildcats. Lima Senior fell to 1-2.

The Wildcats (3-0) host Centerville (3-0) next Friday. Centerville beat Pickerington North 27-26 in Week 2.

Springfield beat the Elks 26-20 in Centerville last season.

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