Clayton, Ohio — The game of the night on Friday was a battle for first place in the GWOC as #1 Springfield (3-0) traveled to Englewood to battle #2 Northmont (3-0). This game was also a big-time matchup between two of the top quarterbacks in the state in Te’Sean Smoot and Cade Rice.
When Rice was asked if he felt any pressure playing against another top-tier quarterback, he said, “going into the game I knew our defense would have to show up playing against a top tier offense in general. I was very focused on what I had to do and what adjustments I needed to make as the game progressed for us to come out on top.”
An interesting storyline entering the game was the pair of transfers on either side. Northmont’s star quarterback Cade Rice moved from Greenon high school outside of Springfield, while Springfield’s Ben van Noord moved from Northwestern high school which is another local school just outside of Springfield.
Rice said, “I knew of him being from the same Springfield area as me, and seeing what he has already done this year I figured it would be an exciting game to watch with loads of Clark County talent.”
Springfield’s high powered offense got off to a fast start. Smoot connected with Xenia transfer Shawn Thigpen for a 65-yard strike on the first play from scrimmage. He then found sophomore receiver Anthony Brown open for another first down. Te’Sean Smoot then finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run to put the Wildcats up 7-0.
When talking about that opening drive, Smoot said, “my mentality going into that first drive was strike fast and get ahead early. It felt good. It felt like we came ready to play and was prepared.”
Northmont’s three-star quarterback responded well. Rice connected with Michigan commit and three-star Rod Moore on 3rd down. He then hit four-star Markus Allen on a 3rd down that he took down the sideline for a big gain. Then Rice capped off the drive with a big-time throw to Rod Moore for 37 yards and a touchdown.
Te’Sean Smoot on the very next play hit Northwestern transfer Ben Van Noord for a 73-yard touchdown pass to put Springfield back up 14-7.
Springfield’s next drive stalled out and then Cade Rice threw an interception to Delian Bradley who returned it deep into Northmont territory. Smoot was able to punch the ball into the end-zone on just one play as he found Robert Jordan for six.
Following a Northmont punt, Smoot aired it out again to Anthony Brown. Brown was able to then break free and he took the ball all the way to the house for a 90-yard touchdown. This put Springfield up 28-7. Then Northmont fumbled the snap which was picked up by Springfield. Down by 21 points and with no momentum the game was starting to feel out of reach for the Thunderbolts.
“Being down 28-7 wasn’t easy to handle but I knew my teammates were looking to me so I did what I had to do and lead them out of it by staying positive and focused on working back into the game. I hate losing more than I love to win so I told myself as well to just lead with my mind and pick my teammates up.” Rice said when talking about the deficit Northmont faced in the first half.
Northmont’s defense led by senior standout Phillip Quansah and Michigan commit Rod Moore stepped up. They stopped Springfield on that drive despite the great field position. Then Rice led the Thunderbolts down the field and eventually found the end-zone on a four-yard quarterback keeper.
After Rice threw an interception right before halftime to Springfield’s Anthony Brown, the Wildcats went into halftime confident up 28-14.
Northmont was forced to punt on their first drive of the second half. Springfield, led by Smoot, drove the length of the field before Northmont’s defense stepped up again. This time they recovered a fumble off of a bad snap from Springfield.
Rice then found his favorite target of the night in Rod Moore. Moore caught what should have been a short 10-15 yard completion. But instead, the three-star broke off a pair of defenders and took it to the house to bring Northmont back within 7.
The Thunderbolt defense stepped up one more time. Phillip Quansah tipped Smoot’s pass at the line and then Zach Martin was able to pick it off. This gave Rice and the offense amazing starting field position. Rice used that to his advantage as he found Rod Moore for another touchdown. This time on a back-shoulder fade to complete the comeback and tie the game at 28-28.
After a three and out, Springfield punted it back. Cade Rice threw a deep route to Markus Allen who made one of the top plays of the night. Allen went up and caught the ball and then proceed to take it all the way for a touchdown. This gave the Thunderbolts a 35-28 lead with 4:08 remaining.
When asked about his big catch, star receiver Markus Allen said, “I felt like I had to go make a play and that’s when I went to go make a play. When I caught the ball, in my head I was like ‘be a playmaker.’ I was saying ‘go score’ and I took off running, I beat the opponent to the end zone and was off to the races.”
Te’Sean Smoot wasn’t ready to go down like that. He hit his top target of the night, Anthony Brown, on a deep ball for a huge first down. Smoot then jumped the pile a couple plays later to tie the game at 35-35. With only 1:40 remaining, neither team was able to do anything and we were headed to overtime.
Springfield started with the football. On 3rd & 9, Smoot’s pass intended for Shawn Thigpen was broken up. This forced a long field goal from Springfield kicker Cole Yost. Yost’s 37-yard attempt just barely missed right and that opened a door for Northmont.
Northmont put all their trust in junior kicker Xavier Vuong. “Going through my head was ‘game over.'” Markus Allen said. “I trusted Xavier from the start and I knew everyone wanted to win as bad as us and he wasn’t going to let us down.” They used their three downs to set him up with a straight attempt. Then Vuong made the kick of his life as he nailed a 28 yarder to win the game for Northmont.
The Thunderbolts rushed the field as they completed an incredible comeback after trailing 28-7 early in the game. Cade Rice finished with 295 yards and 4 TD’s while also having 91 yards on the ground with 1 TD. Rod Moore had 150 yards and 3 TD’s and Markus Allen had 121 yards and 1 TD.
Despite the loss, Springfield’s Te’Sean Smoot had the best first quarter of his life. The Springfield junior finished with 400 yards passing with 3 TD’s and 2 TD’s on the ground.
Springfield will have to bounce back fast, as they welcome a very talented Springboro team next week at Springfield. Northmont will be traveling on the road to Miamisburg to battle the 1-2 Vikings. They will come in fresh off of a 21-7 loss to Fairmont.