The timing wasn’t the best. So much went into this season, and there was so much anticipation when landed the No. 2 overall seed in the PIAA District 1 Class AAA playoffs. The Cougars were hosting their first playoff game in school history.
But the timing to have a clunker against a good team like Academy Park wasn’t the best. The Cougars, who played so well throughout this season, were run over by Academy Park in a surprising 35-10 upset, consequently bringing down a very successful year.
Academy Park, the No. 7 seed, in turn made its own history—winning a playoff game for the first time. The Knights will advance to the second round. Springfield’s season concluded under a sea of turnovers and miscues. The Cougars turned the ball over four times. Springfield’s defense was shredded for 252 yards rushing.
“We did a lot of positive things this year and I couldn’t be more proud of my kids,” Cougars’ coach Tom Kline said. “But we knew Academy Park was a good team. They’re extremely athletic and physical. I don’t think we played the way we’re capable of playing tonight, and that showed. I just stressed to the kids after the game how great their season was and all the really good things that we did.”
What couldn’t be ignored, in fact it was hard to miss him this whole season, was another fine game by Tyler Morrissey. The Springfield senior linebacker was once again all over the field for the Cougars, leading the team with 14 tackles, plus caused two fumbles.
“This is hard,” said Morrissey, coming to grips with playing his last high school, and who will most probably play in college, with schools like Delaware, Temple, West Virginia and Miami now showing interest. “Academy Park is a good team. We stopped them in the beginning of the game, and then we kind of fell asleep.”
Academy Park began taking over the game midway into the third quarter. A Matt Ruggear interception made a 13-yard touchdown run on a delayed draw by Caleeh Jeffrey possible, and an Academy Park 21-10 lead.
The Cougars’ offense had been sluggish all night. Ryan Strain didn’t look like himself. He completed his first pass, a 58-yard strike to Matt Reichert, who made a great reaction to the ball, which resulted in Springfield’s first touchdown.
Then from there, Strain and the Cougars’ offense went frigid. Strain was 0-for-his-next-10, with an interception. Take away the Cougars’ first drive and they gained a mere 49 yards of total offense heading into the fourth quarter. Strain finally snapped his 10-pass streak with a four-yard screen pass to Mike Dougherty. But on that drive, Academy Park came up with its second interception, almost sealing the victory.
Defensively, the Cougars had issues with Academy Park’s draw plays and shoddy tackling. Jeffrey finished with a game-high 126 yards on 20 carries, with touchdown runs of 13 and 26 yards. If it wasn’t Jeffrey tearing up the Cougars’ defense, it was Mark Doe zipping off the edge for large gains. The Knights’ tailback ended with 116 yards on 18 carries, including three- and 20-yard touchdown runs.