COOKEVILLE – Springfield’s magical football season fell one win short of a title in the TSSAA Class 4A BlueCross Bowl on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets got behind early, and the Fighting Cyclones used a big day from dual-threat quarterback Bryson Rollins to capture the 4A title with a 30-6 victory at Tennessee Tech.
Springfield (11-4) finished as the Class 4A runner-up for the second time in three years. Elizabethton (15-0) completed an undefeated season with its first state title since 1938.
“It just hurts right now,” Springfield coach Dustin Wilson said. “It hurts not being able to celebrate with the seniors. That (runner-up) trophy doesn’t suck – I can’t wait to put it in the case. But it’s just tough not being able to celebrate with them one last time.”
Springfield offense struggles
Offense was hard to come by for Springfield. The Yellow Jackets finished with 133 total yards, well below their season average of 273. They also rushed for just 27 after averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground.
“Hats off to (Elizabethton),” Wilson said. “That’s what happens when you play good football teams. They accomplished what they wanted to this evening. I guarantee (stopping the run) was what they focused on all week.”
Nearly half of Springfield’s total offense came on its lone scoring play in the third quarter. Kevontez Hudson threw a high-arching pass to Gabe Kelly, who made a grab over an Elizabethton defender and took it 66 yards for a touchdown.
Otherwise, the Fighting Cyclones allowed just 67 yards on the other 32 Springfield plays. They also held 1,000-yard rusher Kevontay White to just four yards on three carries. Hudson, also a 1,000-yard rusher, was limited to 25 yards on 15 attempts.
“Our defense was amazing today,” Elizabethton coach Shawn Whitten said. “(Springfield) is a good football team and played us really (well) defensively. But we had a feeling today was going to be our day, and nothing was going to stop us this season.”
Rollins, Maupin deliver for Elizabethton
Rollins and senior running back Cade Maupin played roles in all four of Elizabethton’s touchdowns. The Fighting Cyclones tallied 339 yards of total offense on 64 plays.
Rollins completed 11 of his 12 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 136 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
“He’s blessed with a really good supporting cast,” Whitten said of Rollins. “He’s been our leader all year long. He’s done a great job of making plays with his feet. He has something you can’t coach. Our kids believe in him.”
Maupin ran for touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters. He finished with 81 yards on 18 attempts. His 7-yard scoring run with 7:21 remaining served as the final nail in the coffin.
Memories of 2017 for the Yellow Jackets
Springfield’s 2019 campaign took a similar path to its 2017 season. The Yellow Jackets finished with 11-4 records both years and lost to an East Tennessee school in the title game (Springfield dropped the 2017 4A BlueCross Bowl to Greeneville 54-13).
Springfield went 3-3 in its first six games of 2017. This year, the Yellow Jackets had a 4-3 record after back-to-back losses to Marshall County and Montgomery Central. But Springfield turned it on in the postseason both times.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Kelly said of playing in the state championship. “You don’t understand how hard we worked in the offseason to get here. (Regular season) record does not matter. The playoffs are what counts.”
The Yellow Jackets’ 26-6 victory over McMinn Central in 1993 remains the school’s only state football title.
Historic senior class says goodbye
With the loss, Springfield now says goodbye to one of its most successful classes in program history. The nine seniors helped the Yellow Jackets to 13 playoff wins and a 40-17 overall record during their four-year careers.
The group includes White, Cale Jones, Christian Del Rio, Yonel Rodriguez, Mikie Neal, Christian Trujillo, Austin Stiltner, Nate Kendrick and Nathen Griffith.
“They’re freaking huge, man,” Wilson said. “They have been big for this program. The only reason we are here is because of them and their teammates. It’s unbelievable what they’ve accomplished in their high school careers.”