NEW MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – Beau Brungard took the snap and handed it off to his man in motion Lukas Yemma. Yemma flipped it to Nick Slike coming back towards the middle. Slike then tossed it back to Brungard, and made a block on a Norwayne defender to give his quarterback just enough time to throw a strike on the move towards his right back into the arms of Lukas Yemma in the front corner of the endzone. Springfield was back on top of Region 21.
To put it simply, this is one of the greatest games in valley history. In a back and forth battle that saw both teams hold double-digit leads at some point in the game, it all came down to just 57yards in 34 seconds.
After Norwayne’s Ameer Cunningham powered one into the endzone from 7 yards out to close the Tigers lead to 38-34 as time expired in the 3rd, Springfield was set to get the ball to start the 4th. In just under 4 minutes, the Tigers expanded their lead back out to two scores following a 21-yardrun into the endzone by Brungard.
While Springfield was in a good spot, the game was far from over. Taking over with 8 minutes and 14 seconds remaining from their own 20, Norwayne went to work. With a heavy dosage of Cunningham on the ground and Bitskay through the air, the Bobcats struck back on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 4:35 remaining.
Executing squib kicks all game long, the Norwayne special team’s unit headed out trailing by 5 and caught the Tigers’ return team on their heels. The Bobcats performed a surprise onside kick to near perfection with a little bit of luck as well. The onside kick attempt took a perfect hop over the hands of the Springfield front wall and into the arms of a Norwayne gunner.
Just a tick over a 4-minute drive, Norwayne had once again willed their way down the field and into the endzone with their workhorse Ameer Cunningham, this time powering it in from 4 yards out, and propelling the Bobcats back into the lead with just 34 seconds remaining. Ahead by only 1, Norwayne went for two and would convert through the air, moving the score to 48-45.
In almost any other matchup, this game would have been considered over. However, it was a perfect storm of Springfield’s strengths and Norwayne’s weaknesses. For Norwayne, they had not forced the Tigers on a kickoff to start a drive from less than their own 40. For Springfield, they had one of the best kickers in the state of Ohio in Clay Medvec, who already hit from 52 yards out earlier in the year.
The kicker (no pun intended) was that Springfield did not even need to use Medvec’s iron leg. Dinking and dunking their way into Bobcat territory, Springfield was well within Medvec’sfield goal range with 11 seconds to go and a timeout in hand.
Knowing that a tie was within reach, head coach Sean Guerriero was able to go for the win. Lost in all the commotion, Lukas Yemma was able to slip through the Norwayne defense and alone for an easy toss. “We practice it every Friday to make sure we have it down,” Springfield senior Lukas Yemma said about the winning play. “We just put in so much work in so we can win the game no matter what it takes.”
Junior standout Beau Brungard finished with 168 yards through the air with 1 touchdown, 60 yards receiving with 1 touchdown, and 139 yards rushing with 5 touchdowns, totaling for 367 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Springfield: Survive and Advance! The Tigers will move on to face the Region 23 champion Fort Frye Cadets (9-0) of Beverly. This matchup will take place at Sulsberger Memorial Stadium in Zanesville. Fort Frye was last in the State playoffs back in 2018.
*Contributed By YSN’s Jamie Thomson