CHARLOTTE – For the first time since 1991-92, Springfield football has won the region championship in back-to-back seasons.
The Yellow Jackets defeated Creek Wood 14-7 Friday night to secure the Region 5-4A title. The usually-explosive Creek Wood offense was held to only 154 yards, and Springfield’s defense also forced three Red Hawk turnovers.
“You know what teams are going to do this late in the season, and you just have to go out there and give it your best effort,” Springfield coach Dustin Wilson said. “It doesn’t get much better than this on Nov. 1. (It was) a good defensive game.”
Springfield (7-3, 5-1 Region 5-4A) leaned on quarterback Kevontez Hudson and running back Kevontay White, who both rushed for touchdowns. Hudson completed just one pass but ran for 48 yards on 11 carries. White finished with 53 yards on 15 attempts.
Danny Stansberry ran for 127 yards on 30 carries, and that’s usually a recipe for Creek Wood success. But three turnovers, especially an interception on Creek Wood’s final offensive play, was too much to overcome.
Springfield got things started quickly as they marched down the field on the first possession of the game, and White scored from 15 yards out. Neither team scored again in the first half, and the game became a defensive slugfest.
Creek Wood (8-2, 4-2) finally got on the board in the third quarter. Quarterback Elijah Donaldson found Sam Batey on a 12-yard fade route to tie the game at seven.
From there, both teams fought back-and-forth, forcing turnovers and fighting for field position. But it was Springfield that broke through when Hudson followed his offensive line into the end zone for a 2-yard score with 4:34 remaining in the game.
With time running out, the Red Hawks needed some help, and they received it in the form of a long kickoff return by Will Secker. That gave Creek Wood possession at the Springfield 39-yard line. But a miscommunication led to a sack on third-and-short with under a minute left.
On fourth down, Donaldson stepped back into the pocket and threw the ball into double coverage toward Danny Stansberry. Springfield senior Cale Jones came down with the ball in the end zone for a touchback, sealing the win for the Yellow Jackets.
“I think we got each team’s best, and you could replay that game 10 times and get a different result each time,” Wilson said. “Now it’s the real season, and it’s going to be good to go home, but everybody only remembers what you do last.”
Both Wilson and Creek Wood coach Houston Thiel complimented each other’s team after the game.
“Their defense really crashed the middle and made our running tough,” Thiel said. “That team is one of the best tackling teams we’ve faced all season. Hats off to those guys, they made plays when they needed to.
“I’m still confident in my guys, though. I told them after the game there isn’t anyone I’d rather be out here with than them. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I’ve got all the confidence in the world in them.”
Senior Mikie Neal led the Yellow Jackets with 14 tackles, while Austin Stiltner and Yonel Rodriguez both had eight. Gabe Kelly and Ze’Rel Boyd also grabbed interceptions.
Springfield will host Jackson South Side (3-7) next Friday, Nov. 8 in the first round of the TSSAA 4A playoffs. Creek Wood will host Jackson North Side (6-4). Both games are set for 7 p.m.