Springfield football shows strides in opening setback
SPRINGFIELD TWP. Week 1 of a high school football season tends to be equal parts mirror, litmus test, reality check and celebration.
Teams are happy to be playing games again, but they also get to see how they stand up against live competition and where they stand as a group.
For the Springfield Spartans, the first week of the season brought a 42-6 loss to Cloverleaf on a night with multiple lightning delays, rain for much of the night and the oddities that come with the COVID-19 pandemic and sports in this time.
"Cloverleaf is a class organization and we've been talking all week about getting out here to play," third-year Springfield head coach Dave Bosko said. "We're an inexperienced team and we're very small ... we're just trying to get better every week. We played these guys last year in Week 7 and they beat us 52-0. It wasn't a great game today, 42-6, and they put it to us, but we're better now than we were last year in Week 7, so I'm pretty proud of how these guys played."
That the game took place at all would have been a surprise to the entire Springfield team as recently as Aug. 13.
The next day, the district decided to hold in-person classes for students with a scheduled first day of Sept. 8 and with those classes, all fall sports – even contact sports such as football.
"Two weeks ago, we thought we were going Oct. 1 and now we're going Aug. 28, but these kids were ready to play," Bosko said. "They're hungry and we were excited just to get a game in."
The action on the field highlighted the challenges Springfield faces this season. With 26 players on the roster, there isn't a wealth of depth and most players are two-way players, putting an extra demand on them during games.
There is also the challenge of athletes with little varsity experience adjusting to the speed of the game.
Junior quarterback Michael Fuller, who threw for 135 yards and notched a 72-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, is on his first full season as a starter and had his ups and downs.
In addition to the touchdown pass, he had a couple of plays where he rolled out of the pocket, couldn't find an open receiver and rather than throw the ball away, ran out of bounds, resulting in lost yards.
Bosko liked the toughness Fuller showed and believes some of his struggles were opening night nerves.
"I think a lot of that was first game jitters. He actually played really well in the scrimmage last week and this week when it counts, it was a little bit more pressure," Bosko said. "We'll look at the film and he's a really good, strong kid ... I'd like him to get rid of the ball quicker, but he had some really nice throws."
There won't be any let ups in the schedule for Springfield, which is part of the first season for the newly formed Metro Athletic Conference.
League powers such as Streetsboro and Woodridge await, promising to test the young Spartans and make them earn every yard and point.
In assessing where his team stands one game into a COVID-shortened six-game regular season, Bosko credited a tough opponent, praised his team and pointed to areas where growth is needed.
"I liked the approach we had to the game, but they're (Cloverleaf) a really good team and they handled things the way they should," Bosko said. "We've got to get better at our execution, especially with our pass protection and getting the ball out quicker."