The final score proved it: DeMatha Catholic 35, Springfield 7.
What made the feeling worse for the Wildcats was that for much of the game they competed evenly with the Stags, a top talent-producing program from Hyattsville, Maryland. But a handful of plays, most of them late in the first half, put the Wildcats in a 28-7 halftime hole.
“You gotta have some humble pie,” Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass said. “Good for us is that it was an out-of-state team. We’ve been here before. It’s just another group of new guys. Every time we’ve lost in the past, we bounced back and showed our resilience. So we have to bounce back and have a great week of practice.”
DeMatha, which piled up 495 total yards, also made some plays happen with their talent. A 25-yard leaping catch by Vincent Ordenes for 25 yards converted a fourth-and-15 to the 8-yard line. The Stags scored on a 3-yard run three plays later for a 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats finally had a big gain when Brent Upshaw completed an 18-yard pass to Jamil Miller early in the second quarter. One play later, DeMatha called a timeout. But Springfield made better use of it. Upshaw threw deep to Martin for a 70-yard touchdown on the next play to tie the score 7-7.
“High energy and everybody felt good,” Martin said of the mood after he scored. “We were in the game. But after that we just didn’t execute.”
The bad breaks and mistakes began when Martin, subbing for an injured teammate on defense, slipped at the goal line and Lavar Keys caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Denzel Gardner for a 14-7 lead. Then two interceptions in the final 1:26 of the half put the game out of reach.
Upshaw’s pass bounced off a receiver’s hands for an interception at the Springfield 33. The Stags cashed in three plays later for a 21-7 lead with 55 seconds left in the half. Then Kaden Hines replaced an injured Upshaw and his interception was returned 22 yards by Jamonte Dance-Ande for a 28-7 lead with 14 seconds left in the half.
“It was a major part,” Douglass said. “Because if we don’t let them score, we don’t throw an interception for a touchdown, it may be a different ballgame. It should have been a good game. But we just made some crucial mistakes.”
Hines moved the Wildcats some in the second half, but they turned the ball over on downs at the 6. And a fumble and interception followed.
“People have got to believe in themselves,” Martin said. “Everybody’s getting discouraged, people getting hurt, adversity happens.”
Hines completed 14 of 22 passes for 95 yards, and Upshaw was 7 for 13 for 148 yards. Duncan Bradley caught eight passes for 76 yards and Martin caught seven for 104. The Wildats gained 243 of their 273 yards through the air.
DeMatha’s Ward, running back Bud Coombs and receiver Emmanuel Dyson all have Division I offers, and that’s just the beginning for the Stags. Coombs led a 337-yard rushing attack with 160 yards on 23 carries. Gardner scrambled for 51 yards on 12 carries and completed 13 of 22 passes for 158 yards.
DeMatha might be turn out to be the most talented team Springfield plays this season. But that doesn’t mean the schedule lets up. The Wildcats travel to Trotwood-Madison on Friday. The Rams thumped Fairmont 38-8 Friday. Then the always tough route through the Greater Western Ohio Conference begins.
“Now we’ve got to come into this week nonstop,” Martin said. “It’s a reality check.”