Unbeaten Wildcats ‘trusting and believing in each other’

Springfield’s Isaiah Gibson, right, tries to get by Lebanon’s Luke Lane on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, at Evans Stadium in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff
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Springfield’s Isaiah Gibson, right, tries to get by Lebanon’s Luke Lane on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, at Evans Stadium in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff

Unbeaten Springfield is 5-0 for the first time since South and North merged a decade ago — and the Wildcats have done it with a stout defense.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 10 in this week’s Division I state poll, have allowed 44 points, the least in the 20-team Greater Western Ohio Conference. They haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a game since Week 2. The Wildcats pitched a shutout against Lebanon last week and held Centerville to six points in Week 4.

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Springfield ranks second in the league in total yards allowed at 192.8 yards per game. It’s the only team in the GWOC allowing less than 100 yards rushing per game (99.4).

“They’re working hard in practice and they’re getting all the results they deserve and that they work for during the week,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “It’s easy on Fridays based on what they’ve done throughout the week.”

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Douglass has been calling the defense with several new coaches on staff this fall. That’s led to more blitzing in the Wildcats’ multiple sets, Douglass said.

“We’re all on the same page,” Douglass said. “We all want to attack. God made a way for us to be able to go out and do those things this season and it’s worked to our advantage. We’re going to keep doing what we do.”

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Senior Zach Breslin leads in tackles with 30, followed by junior Xzerious Stinnett and senior Moses Douglass at 29 each.

Senior linebacker Tavion Smith has two interceptions, including a 44-yard return for a touchdown against Lebanon. He’s also tallied 15 tackles and four fumble recoveries.

“We believe in our coaches,” Smith said. “We just want to keep going 1-0 every week.”

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Senior defensive tackle and University of Kentucky commit Isaiah Gibson is tied for third in the GWOC with three sacks. With Lebanon threatening on fourth down at Springfield’s goal line, Gibson leaped over the center and forced a fumble the Wildcats recovered.

“He cut me like four plays in a row,” Gibson said. “With 18 inches to go, I figured I may as well just jump over him. It worked. … It wasn’t just me. My teammates stopped him the play before on third down. It was a good stand.”

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The players have also emphasized watching film, said senior defensive back Moses Douglass, who also recently committed to play at Kentucky. They typically watch film at home after practice, he said.

“We all have an idea of what’s going on,” Moses Douglass said. “We have great chemistry. We all know where each other is going to be.”

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The Wildcats face a tough challenge on Friday against the GWOC’s leading rusher, Xenia’s Sincere Wells. He’s rushed for 972 yards and 11 touchdowns, an average of 194 yards per game in the Buccaneers’ wing-T offense.

The Wildcats faced Lancaster’s wing-T in a 20-14 Week 1 win at Evans Stadium.

“It’s just about being assignment sound and making sure you execute whatever defense is called, line up in the right gaps and carry out your responsibilities,” Maurice Douglass said. “The things that get you in trouble are when you try to do somebody else’s job and not paying attention to your own.”

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Trust has played a key role in the Wildcats’ success, he said.

“It’s about knowing my brother is going to be in the spot he’s supposed to be in,” Douglass said. “They’ve done a good job of trusting and believing in each other.”