Springwood looks for redemption in rematch for the state championship
Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Springwood returns to Montgomery this week as the Wildcats face Cornerstone Christian in the Cramton Bowl with the AISA 8-man state championship on the line.
This marks the second straight season that Springwood has advanced to the state championship in Montgomery. Last season, the Wildcats fell to Evangel Christian Academy 38-28 in the state championship.
Springwood’s entire season has been about getting back to the state championship and getting over the hump to bring home the trophy.
“We’ve got to play our game,” Springwood coach Joey Burch said. “A lot of that is limit mistakes, which is penalties and turnovers. Turnover-wise, we’ve been very fortunate this year. We’ve taken care of the ball. If we take care of the ball and limit penalties, and just play hard-nosed football, I think we’ll be ok.”
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The Wildcats faced Cornerstone Christian earlier this season and lost 44-42 in overtime. The Chargers rely heavily on Zeke Adams at quarterback.
Adams and his favorite wide receiver, Noah Schober, caused issues for Springwood’s defense in the first matchup. Adams is a complete dual-threat at quarterback. This season, Adams has 25 passing touchdowns, and he has averaged 167 rushing yards per game.
Schober is one of the players to watch on both sides of the ball. Schober has 16 receiving touchdowns this season, and he has also intercepted four passes on defense.
“They’re a problem for everybody that plays them,” Burch said. “Zeke is a great dual-threat quarterback. If your game plan is to pin him up in the pocket and make him throw, he can throw and hurt you. If you put a lot of pressure on him, he’s got good enough speed and his legs are strong enough, that he can escape and hurt you with a big run.”
Springwood has played a pretty clean game for the majority of the season. The one exception to that was the game against Cornerstone.
Against the Chargers, the Wildcats left the first half with several missed opportunities. Springwood struggled with turnovers and penalties in the first half and struggled to find consistency in the red zone. The Wildcats corrected those mistakes in the second half, but a better first half would have likely given Springwood a commanding lead at halftime.
“Our first half, just like what I talked about we needed to do to win the ball game we didn’t do,” Burch said. “We came out, we had 2-3 turnovers.”
The Wildcats have leaned on their dynamic running back all season, and CJ Johnson will be even more important on Thursday.
Johnson has been one of the most valuable offensive players in the AISA this season. Johnson has averaged nearly 127 rushing yards per game, and he has totaled 25 rushing touchdowns on the season.
“He’s had big games all season,” Burch said. “With our injuries and things like that, he’s going to be huge for us in the championship game on both sides of the ball.”
Dylan Reeves has been the captain of Springwood’s defense this season, but Reeves is set to miss the championship game due to an injury he suffered last week against Southern Prep. Colt Pearson is tasked with stepping up in his place.
Pearson has started on the defensive side of the ball all season, but this week Pearson is going to be the signal caller on defense. Several other players are expected to play larger roles this week due to injuries.
“Colt Pearson is going to have to step up,” Burch said.
“He starts for us on defense, and he was our go-to guy off the bench in any position as far as receiver, back or quarterback. He’s got huge shoes to fill, but he’s a great athlete and capable of doing so. Parker Fuller stepped up as well, and he’s going to have to step up as well with Dylan’s injury. We should be in good shape, but we’re just going to be mighty thin. We don’t have much depth. We’re counting on a couple of other guys, some younger eighth and ninth graders to give us a play and let us rest some of these guys.”
Burch, the coaching staff and every player on the team felt like they let the previous matchup with Cornerstone slip away from them. The team has been motivated and hoping for this matchup since the loss earlier this season, and they are looking forward to getting revenge on Thursday.
“This is the team they wanted to play since we lost in overtime to them,” Burch said. “They wanted to have a chance to redeem that loss. They got what they wanted. On the other hand, they’re a very talented team. They’re looking forward to it right now. I hope by about lunchtime on Thursday they’re still feeling good about themselves.”
Kickoff for Springwood’s game against Cornerstone Christian is set for 11 a.m. ET at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.