2019 record: 38-19
Last week: 1-0
Another year, another trip to the quarterfinals for Springfield.
The Yellow Jackets (9-3) have reeled off five straight wins to advance to the final eight of the TSSAA Class 4A playoff bracket.
I must admit: I didn’t see this coming. After a humbling defeat to Marshall County in late September and a narrow loss at Montgomery Central two weeks later, it appeared this year’s Springfield team was heading for a first or second round exit.
Everyone would have understood. Springfield graduated a three-headed monster in quarterback Bryan Hayes, receiver Dayron Johnson and tailback Keith Jones. The run of four straight quarterfinal appearances had to come to an end, right?
Springfield put it all together at the right time, mixing a stout defense with a run-heavy offense that has been hard to contain.
QB Kevontez Hudson and RB Kevontay White have stepped up to fill two of the holes left by last year’s stars. And the Yellow Jacket defense has limited opponents to 19.6 points per game.
To reach the state semifinals for a third consecutive season, the Yellow Jackets must get through Hardin County. Here’s my pick for the quarterfinal showdown:
Hardin County at Springfield (Friday at 7 p.m.)
Hardin County beat Creek Wood 28-14 to advance to the quarterfinals last Friday. It was the Tigers’ 11th win in a row.
Hardin County (11-1) is different from most teams Springfield has played this year. The Tigers boast a dynamic passer in quarterback Rivers Hunt, who is up for Mr. Football in Class 4A. Hunt had 2,012 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions entering the playoffs.
They also have four-star tight end Hudson Wolfe, who was suspended for the Creek Wood game after being ejected in the Tigers’ 42-14 win over Portland in the first round. Wolfe is ranked as the No. 6 tight end in the nation and has 21 scholarship offers.
Hunt and Rivers will pose a challenge the Springfield defense has not seen since a 42-12 loss to Marshall County on Sept. 27. In that contest, Marshall County tailback Kel Greer rushed for 143 yards and 4 touchdowns, while quarterback Bryson Hammons threw for 141 yards and a score.
But the Yellow Jackets are playing with a certain edge right now. And Springfield is hard to beat in Springfield – the Yellow Jackets are 19-2 at home since opening their new stadium in 2017.
With just one team remaining, my record can’t get much better or much worse at this point. Give me the Yellow Jackets in a mild upset.
PICK: Springfield 30, Hardin County 28