Springfield, Ohio — It has been a week since the game everyone in the city of Dayton had wanted to see all season was cancelled. After a positive COVID-19 test on Northmont came back, the Thunderbolts’ season was cancelled. That meant that Springfield would advance to the next round.
The team they would have to face would be a tough Olentangy Liberty team. They were coming fresh off of a Saturday win over Dublin Coffman. The Patriot defense forced a late fumble to seal the victory.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Wildcats looked to claim back to back regional titles behind three-star quarterback Te’Sean Smoot. Last year, they fell to Elder in the final four after a 7-3 regional title win over Dublin Coffman.
Olentangy Liberty started out with the football and they decided to roll the dice early. After a three-and-out, the Patriots faked the punt on 4th & 1 and instead had the punter run for the first down which he easily got. However, the drive eventually ended as Springfield held Olentangy Liberty again and they were forced to punt this time.
On the Wildcats opening possession, Te’Sean Smoot found his favorite target, Ben Van Noord on a bomb that resulted in a huge gain. Smoot then connected with Dovon Williams on 4th & 7 to move the chains. They eventually found the endzone as Smoot kept it himself and made his way in for a two-yard touchdown.
The Wildcats defense held Olentangy Liberty to another three-and-out. Then to open up the 2nd quarter, Smoot found Ben Van Noord again. This time on a bubble screen. Van Noord broke off a tackle and took that screen-pass 35 yards and into the endzone to put Springfield up 13-0 following a blocked extra point.
“It felt great to extend our lead and put us in a better position,” said Van Noord after his big touchdown reception.
The rest of the first half was mostly defensive stops. Springfield got the ball back with two minutes remaining and Smoot took a shot deep. He found sophomore Anthony Brown for a gain of 35 yards. Then a couple plays later, Te’Sean found Brown one more time. Brown caught the ball then juked out his defender and turned up field for another Wildcat touchdown right before halftime. After another blocked PAT, Springfield led 19-0 going into the locker room.
The Wildcats started out with the football to begin the second half. After a big completion from Smoot to Van Noord, the Wildcats had great field position and looked to put this game away with one more score. But then the Patriot defense stepped up. Drew Thornton forced a fumble on a screen pass and then recovered it which gave Olentangy Liberty back the momentum and the football.
Despite the fantastic starting field position, Olentangy Liberty couldn’t do anything with the football. Jokell Brown sacked Mitch Fields which then made it 4th & 34 and the Patriots were forced to punt.
Later in the 3rd quarter, Olentangy Liberty runningback Stephen Dirksmeier broke off a huge run for 24 yards and it looked like the Patriots could comeback in this game. Even after that big run, the Patriots couldn’t move the ball in the redzone once again. Fields was forced to run on 4th down and he wasn’t able to convert.
Liberty’s defense continued to give their offense a chance late in the game. Smoot threw up a 50/50 ball to Ben Van Noord. Van Noord tipped the pass up and then Joseph Dieker made one of the top plays of the night as he intercepted Smoot off of the tipped pass.
But then again the Wildcat defense came up huge. Fields threw a dime to his receiver but it was dropped on 3rd down. Then the Springfield pressure sent Fields running outside of the pocket before he got hit. This resulted in a turnover on downs.
Smoot threw his second interception late in the fourth quarter. It appeared that the Olentangy Liberty defender got away with a bit off a push-off on Anthony Brown but no flags were thrown. The Patriots got one more chance with 4 minutes remaining.
After a long final drive, Mitch Fields was picked off by Kendal Dolby who sealed the 19-0 win. Smoot and his Wildcat teammates lined up in victory formation and Springfield would won its second straight regional title.
The Springfield defense constantly came up with huge stops in this game. When asked about how it felt to affect the game in a big way, junior Tywan January said, “I felt like we set the tone for the night and a lot of those stops is what got the momentum going.”
Te’Sean Smoot went 23/33 with 319 yards and 2 touchdowns passing. He also had 25 yards on 12 attempts with a touchdown rushing. Sophomore reciever Anthony Brown had 6 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. But possibly the best performance was from senior receiver Ben Van Noord. Van Noord transferred from Northwestern high school and has been an impact since he stepped on the field.
When asked if he ever thought he would be a regional champion while wearing a Springfield jersey, Van Noord said, “Honestly no. I thought I would be graduating from Northwestern. But transferring to Springfield was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
The Wildcats aren’t done yet. They will advance to the state semi-final against St. Xavier next week. The Bombers are coming fresh off of a last second win over Lakota West. Penn State commit and four-star Liam Clifford (the younger brother of Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford) caught a huge touchdown to put the Bombers ahead late. That game will be held at Piqua high school next Friday at 7 pm.