‘They remember November’ — No. 12 seed Springfield moves to third round with victory at Centerville

Wildcats lean on defense, running game and avenge loss to Elks in regular season

CENTERVILLE — The Springfield Wildcats are not a typical No. 12 seed. They’re a two-time state runner-up that found their footing in October after a 3-5 start. Now there’s no telling how far they’ll go in the playoffs.

“We can make it to state,” Springfield star Aaron Scott, an Ohio State commit, said Friday after a 17-10 victory over No. 4 seed Centerville in the second round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs. “We can make history. No team that went 5-5 has made it to state. We could be the first to do it. Why not?”

Scott clinched Springfield’s fourth straight victory and second straight playoff victory against a team it lost to in the regular season on a touchdown run with 2:14 to play. The Wildcats took a 17-3 lead over the Elks, who scored their first touchdown in the final minute but could not recover the ensuing onside kick. Springfield then knelt on the ball to run out the clock.

With the victory, Springfield avenged a 24-16 loss to Centerville on Oct. 6. The Wildcats have not lost since that game, beating Miamisburg and Northmont to end the regular season and then knocking off No. 5 seed Wayne 38-14 in the first round of the playoffs. Wayne beat Springfield 27-22 in Week 4.

“We’re just proving everybody wrong,” Scott said. “We started off slow. Everybody has been doubting us.”

Springfield (7-5) will play No. 1 seed Lewis Center Olentangy (11-1), which beat No. 9 seed Miamisburg 38-21, in the regional semifinals Nov. 10.

Springfield coach Maurice Douglass, whose team is 18-4 in the playoffs over the last four seasons, said these are the games everyone remembers.

“They remember November,” Douglass said. “That’s what they remember. You can win the conference and be out in the first round, so that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you do once the playoffs start. We started clicking about four weeks ago, and Week 5 coming up. So we’re just trying to get prepared for the next team.”

Centerville won the Greater Western Ohio Conference championship with a 6-1 mark. It finished the season 9-3. This was the second straight year it lost to Springfield in the playoffs. The Wildcats beat the Elks 42-14 in the third round last season. Springfield has won seven of the last eight games in the series.

Springfield took a 7-0 lead on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Brent Upshaw to Dave Williams with 4:03 left in the first quarter. It was the first touchdown of the season for Williams.

“We’re happy for him,” Douglass said, “because he’s done a great job blocking on the perimeter all year, and then tonight he was able to get rewarded in the playoffs.”

Centerville cut the deficit to 7-3 on a 39-yard field goal by Leland Gantz with 11:15 left in the second quarter.

Neither team scored in the third quarter. Springfield ran more than seven minutes off the clock on the first drive of the second half and twice converted on fourth down before being stopped by Centerville on fourth down in the red zone.

The Wildcats leaned on the running game during that drive and throughout the game. Deontre Long and Jayvin Norman, who entered the game with 1,433 yards and 17 touchdowns between them, carried the load.

“We’re the running Wildcats,” Douglass said. “You’ve seen what we had in the past two years with our quarterbacks. They were more slinging guys. We have more of a run-based team now. We’re going to run the rock, eat that clock up and allow our defense to be well rested, get three and outs and get it back to offense.”

Springfield extended its lead to 10-3 in 27-yard field goal by Brayden Herron with 6:03 left in game. Then an interception by Quenta Wafer Jr. ended Centerville’s next drive. It was the second interception of the half for Wafer.

“I’ve been getting on him for not getting one,” Scott said, “and he said tonight was the night, and he did it.”

“That kid has got more break-ups than anybody out there,” Douglass said, “and finally tonight his hard work paid off.”

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