Injury decimated Springwood falls in state championship game
Published 2:05 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023
On Thursday, Springwood traveled to Montgomery to play in the AISA 8-man football state championship for the second straight season, but the Wildcats unfortunately fell short again as Cornerstone Christian won the game 66-18.
Springwood came into the game after being decimated by injuries in the semifinal, and that just compounded on Thursday as several key players had to leave the game.
“We kind of got to where we couldn’t throw the ball, we couldn’t run our offense,” Springwood coach Joey Burch said. “Poor CJ Johnson, we ran him to death. They knew he was getting the ball, and we were very predictable just because of the injuries. When you turn around to get somebody to sub and there is nobody there, it’s very helpless.”
Springwood started the first half with all the momentum. On the opening kickoff, CJ Johnson broke free on a 54-yard return to set the Wildcats up at the 26-yard line. A few plays later Johnson found the end zone on a one-yard rushing touchdown. After the failed two-point conversion, Springwood took a 6-0 lead with 10:09 left in the first quarter.
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Johnson continued the momentum as he sacked Zeke Adams on the ensuing drive to force a turnover on downs. Two plays later, Johnson rushed for a 31-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed again, but Springwood led 12-0 with 5:57 left in the first quarter.
Cornerstone answered as Zeke Adams rushed for a 97-yard touchdown on the next play from scrimmage. The Chargers converted the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 12-8 with 5:35 left in the first quarter.
Luke Hudson passed it short to Colt Pearson on the ensuing drive and Pearson turned it into an 82-yard receiving touchdown. Springwood failed the two-point conversion but still held an 18-8 lead with 4:37 left in the first quarter.
The momentum in the game switched from that point on as Cornerstone scored 58 consecutive points to end the game. On the ensuing drive, Adams found Noah Schober on a 67-yard pass to set Cornerstone up on the opposing 13-yard line. Adams then finished off the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown. The Chargers failed the two-point conversion, but they still cut the lead to 18-14 with 3:08 left in the first quarter.
Springwood punted for the first time and Adams found the end zone on a 90-yard rushing touchdown on the next play from scrimmage to give Cornerstone a 22-18 with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
Disaster struck on the ensuing drive for the Wildcats. Hudson had been playing through an injury from the opening possession. He dropped back to pass, dropped the ball and fell to the ground in pain. Cash Causey pounced on the ball and returned it 50 yards for the touchdown. Adams converted the two-point conversion to give the Chargers a 30-18 lead with 10:00 left in the second quarter.
Hudson did not return to the game with an apparent knee injury. The injury left Springwood without a true quarterback, and the offense was one-dimensional for the rest of the game.
“I didn’t want to go out,” Hudson said. “I said I wasn’t going out unless I was getting taken off the field. I just continued to try to play, and it just collapsed on me. I tried to throw a pass later in the game, and there was just no going back.”
Cornerstone added one last score as Adams rushed for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Chargers a 36-18 lead with 2:14 left in the second quarter.
Cornerstone Christian continued piling on in the second half. Adams scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown, and the Chargers took a 42-18 lead with 7:06 left in the third quarter after the failed two-point conversion.
A fumbled exchange by Springwood gave Cornerstone the ball on their own 40-yard line. Jackson Waugh then rushed for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Chargers a 50-18 lead with 3:37 left in the third quarter.
Cornerstone added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter as Jake Dunning found the end zone on a five-yard rush to give the Chargers a 58-18 lead with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter.
TC Sanders delivered the final blow on a 15-yard rushing touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, Cornerstone led 66-18 with 3:05 left in the game.
Springwood finished the season with a 9-3 record, with two of the Wildcats losses coming to the Chargers.
“We had a great season,” Burch said. “Super proud of this bunch.”
Brayden Moseley was one of the key senior leaders on both sides of the line for Springwood. Moseley was one of the few players who stayed with the program through each transition, and he helped to recruit players once Burch arrived on campus.
“Football is about life, teaching life lessons,” Moseley said. “You get knocked down, especially something like this, it’s more than football. All the guys on the field are family to you.”
Through the press conference, it was clear the impact Burch has had on this program and this group of seniors. Hudson had almost given up on football before Burch arrived and encouraged him to get back out there. Hudson came back to football for his junior season, and it became a huge part of his life.
“I had no idea that I was going to play football that year,” Hudson said. “I believed in Coach Burch. I saw what he was doing. I just want to thank him for all he’s done because if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be out here playing football.”
Springwood has several players returning next season, and Burch and the rest of the coaching staff are looking forward to rebuilding and returning to Montgomery next year.