The Springfield football team was on its way to an easy home rout after jumping out to a 35-0 lead over Jackson South Side in the first half of Friday’s TSSAA playoff opener.
But the Yellow Jackets eased up at the break, allowing the Hawks to stick around until late in the fourth quarter.
“I’m still growing too, and I learn,” Springfield coach Dustin Wilson said. “It’s all on me. The kids played great and came out and executed the game plan. I put them in the wrong mentality at halftime. Lesson learned – that’ll never happen again.”
Springfield held on for a 42-21 victory despite the second-half lapse. The Yellow Jackets (8-3) will host Lexington (6-5) in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
Quarterback Kevontez Hudson accounted for all five Springfield touchdowns in the first half. He finished 4-of-6 passing for 140 yards and two scores. The junior also ran for 93 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.
Throwing the ball was not part of Springfield’s game plan in recent wins over Portland, Greenbrier and Creek Wood. But Hudson opened the game with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Kelly, and he later found senior Cale Jones for a 35-yard strike just before halftime.
“When you get this late in the year, maybe the only film (an opponent) has is of the past three weeks,” Wilson said. “We just tried to take advantage. (Hudson) can do it, we just haven’t been doing it as much.”
Hudson spent last season as a defensive starter and a backup to QB Bryan Hayes. Although he is primarily a runner, Hudson, who stands just 5-foot-5, said his game continues to evolve as he gets more experience behind center.
“I feel more comfortable (now),” Hudson said. “I got in a few times (last year), but I was nervous. I thought I couldn’t do it because I was too short. But I had to come out here and do my best and show (Coach Wilson) I could do it.
Jackson South Side did not crack Springfield’s defense until the third quarter, when Graham Callaway ran for a 13-yard touchdown with at the 8:08 mark. Quarterback Aaron Henley later hit Timothy Douglas for a 15-yard score, and Rodderick Moore returned a kickoff for a touchdown with 6:06 left to play.
Fortunately for Springfield, the commanding halftime lead was enough. And Kelly tacked on another score with a 64-yard interception return midway through the fourth quarter.
The Yellow Jackets have now won four straight games. The relatively young squad, which has 10 seniors, has drastically improved since opening the year with a 37-7 loss at Wilson Central.
“These kids are hanging in there, and they are trusting each other,” Wilson said. “Getting experience takes time. If there’s a chip on their shoulder, I hope whoever is feeding it keeps on feeding it.”
Lexington defeated visiting White House Heritage 35-27 on Friday. Springfield beat Lexington 18-14 on its way to the Class 4A state championship game in 2017.
“Survive and advance,” Wilson said. “You just want to (work hard) and give the kids the best opportunity to make sure next Friday night is not their last night.”