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Springwood claims first win of 2020

After a tough loss in their first game, the Springwood Wildcats bounced back on Thursday, when they defeated Southern Preparatory 21-14 on Thursday night.

“It’s always good to win, but I didn’t think we played very well,” head coach John Gartman said. “Defense played about what I expected. They have a couple skill guys that are tough to tie-up. Overall, we played pretty well defensively.”

After missing all week with a knee injury he sustained against Abbeville Christian, running back OJ Tolbert was expected to miss the game or be very limited if he was able to play.

“OJ got hurt last Friday, and we didn’t think we were going to have him this week,” Gartman said. “We practiced this week thinking we wouldn’t have OJ.”

Instead of missing the game, the senior carried the load for the Wildcats on Thursday, toting the ball 32 times for 160 yards. He also scored all three of Springwood’s touchdowns.

“He was the same old OJ,” Gartman said. “He’s been our workhorse for a while now. I think he was slowed by the injury, so maybe he wasn’t as quick as he is at full health. I was glad we had him. I don’t know if we would have been able to win if he didn’t play.”

Tolbert scored the only points in the first quarter with a six-yard run. He scored his second touchdown in the second quarter, this time on a three-yard run.

At halftime, the Wildcats trailed by one, as they had failed on a two-point conversion earlier in the game.

“We just had to come out and wear them down in the second half,” Gartman said. “That’s one thing run-oriented teams like us take pride in — wearing teams down in the second half. We came out in the second half with that attitude. We moved it a little bit better, but we still need to get better. We had some times where we looked good and some times we didn’t. We need to get more consistent during games.”

The Wildcats were able to wear down the Generals throughout the second half, relying on Tolbert to carry the load. The senior finished with 16 of the team’s 17 carries in the second half, accounting for 89 yards.

Late in the fourth quarter, Tolbert gave the Wildcats the lead with a six-yard scamper. A successful two-point conversion by Kannon Key gave the Wildcats a seven-point lead, which they held onto until the end of the game.

Gartman wants to see his offense take a step forward in terms of what they can do. In their first two games, the Wildcats have been mainly running their traditional Wing-T offense, which has limited their potential in their first two games.

Gartman wants the Wildcats to be able to run some more complex plays, mainly variations of the read-option, which they were able to do near the end of 2019.

“Right now, we’re kind of stuck in our base Wing-T stuff,” Gartman said. “Last year, we were doing a lot more, and we’re trying to get to that this year, where we have more ways to hurt defenses. We’re not really there yet, but we took a step from last week.”

Key finished with six carries for 28 yards.

On defense, the Wildcats were led by Trevo Williams and Will Craft, as the two seniors finished with 11 and nine tackles respectively. Gartman highlighted Johnathan “Jon-Jon” Johnson on defense. The Generals are a spread team, and Johnson was on an island for most of the night. Gartman was proud of how the sophomore handled the responsibility.

“He was big for us,” Gartman said.

The Wildcats host their rival Chambers Academy on Friday, Sept. 4.