Springfield ready for its shot at district title

SPRINGFIELD — There’s an edge to Springfield, one that only an undefeated team can have.

It’s not swagger and it’s not cockiness, but it’s a confidence that permeates throughout the roster.

As quarterback Brian Allen said, Friday night’s District One Class AAA final has been in the working since the summer. Coming into the year, Springfield was considered a team that could make noise in the Central League. So, the Cougars went ahead and beat everyone. They defeated reigning champion Garnet Valley on the way to claiming the program’s first Central League title in 20 years, and they finally won a District One playoff game.

The Cougars have done most of their business in dominating fashion.

It’s no surprise, then, that Springfield finds itself on the doorstep of greatness. The Cougars look to become the third straight Delco football team to win a District One Class AAA crown and the fourth in five years. Interboro and Academy Park won in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Strath Haven won it all in 2010.

Springfield and Great Valley meet Friday night at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School. Opening kickoff is 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live by Marple Newtown’s radio crew on Marplenewtownfootball.com.

“We’re ready,’ Allen said. “It’s something that the community has been waiting for for a long time now. Everyone has worked hard to get here, and this is what we’ve prepared for. Coaches were harping on this since June, that our time will come, and now it’s time to make it count. I don’t doubt our team will get it done. We’ve prepared for this moment.’

Allen led the Cougars (12-0) on a game-winning drive last week in the Cougars’ 10-6 victory over Pottsgrove in the semifinal round.

Great Valley (11-1), which disposed of Bishop Shanahan, placed second behind West Chester Rustin in the Ches-Mont League American Division. The Patriots have a slew of explosive weapons, including Nasir Adderley, a multi-faceted wide receiver/running back who does most of his damage out of the slot. He has 697 yards receiving and 430 on the ground. Adderley is a threat in the return game, too, and has totaled 16 touchdowns.

“That Nasir kid is a real good player. He probably poses the biggest threat of them all. Of course there’s the running back (River Johnson) you have to worry about, but he’s pretty good,’ said Allen, who has totaled 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air and 995 yards and 12 scores on the ground. “All year long, our defense has played against good teams and they’ve been clutch for us the whole time, so I’m not worried about our defense holding them down.’

Allen might have to carry a little extra weight in the Springfield offense, which managed 163 total yards against Pottsgrove. Leading rusher and senior Colin Braconnier went down with a knee injury and is doubtful for Friday. Brad Murphy, who contributed a few key runs on last week’s winning drive, likely will start in Springfield’s spread offense attack. Junior fullback Ricky Sterling is also an option out of the backfield.

Springfield has made its mark as a defensive team, and it will be challenged Friday night like never before. Cougars senior lineman Brian Layden (21 sacks) and All-Delco linebacker Adam Krauter will have their hands full against the Patriots in the trenches.

“I know they’re good players with quick steps, and that’s the main key,’ said Layden. “Once they get their hands on you, it’s tough. It’s always a hand fight. The big kids aren’t the problem, it’s the fast kids, and they have a few of those.’

One of the most underrated aspects to Springfield’s defense is its propensity to create turnovers. They lead all Delco with 16 interceptions. Luc Spence is tied for the county lead in interceptions with six. Spence and fellow defensive backs Pat Smyth and Mike Fleagle have five and four, respectively.

“In the second half of the season, we have gotten a lot of picks and that’s worked out for us,’ said the Lehigh-bound Spence, an All-Delco lacrosse player. “Between me and the other corners, it’s like a personal challenge between us. We just want to be the one that has the ball, to make plays for the D. When the opportunity presents itself, we know we have to step up and take the ball from the other team. We do 7-on-7s a lot. Our cornerback coach (Chris Tolar), we’ve been with him since freshman year. He’s really helped us a lot.’

Great Valley runs a spread offense with quarterback Zach Ludwig at the helm. Ludwig has thrown for 1,580 yards and 13 touchdowns against only three interceptions. In addition to Adderley, Ludwig’s other targets include tight end Ryan Buchholz (218 yards, two TDs) and wide receiver Doug Strang (26 receptions, 352 yards, four TDs). Buchholz, who has nine sacks as a defensive end, is committed to Penn State.

The Cougars secondary should be tested often, but they’re not about to back down. Springfield has allowed just 8.8 points per game largely because its defense is the best in the county. They’ll also have to deal with Johnson, the running back who has 923 yards and 12 touchdowns.

It’s also a reunion of sorts for Great Valley first-year coach Dan Ellis, a state champion quarterback at Downingtown High. Ellis, of course, was head coach at Springfield from 2008-10. Chris Britton, the top man on the Springfield sideline, was an assistant coach for Ellis.

“At this time of year, you’ve got to be physical and you’ve got to play good defense,’ Ellis said. “Right now, both teams are doing exactly that. When it comes to trying to score points against them, we have to get a hat on a hat, making sure we’re calling good plays to what they’re doing and make those adjustments. Offensively, we have to figure out a way to contain Allen and try to take away his running ability. That’s what’s scary about them. You can cover them perfectly, but all of a sudden, you got a kid in Allen who can run and take off.

“They’re a typical Delco team. Layden, for instance, might weigh 175 pounds but he’s going to kick you in the teeth and he’s going to play hard. He doesn’t care how big you are. And that, as a whole, is the kind of team they are. They’re going to be hungry and we’ve got to try score one more touchdown than they do.’

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