After surviving its Division I, Region 2 playoff opener, the Dublin Jerome football team is preparing for its next challenge.
The fourth-seeded Celtics improved to 9-2 by beating fifth-seeded Springboro 38-31 in five overtimes Nov. 8 at home. They advanced to face top-seeded Springfield in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15, at Marysville.
"They have a dominant defense," coach Bob Gecewich said of the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 with a 23-0 win over eighth-seeded Marysville on Nov. 8. "Their offense has weapons all over the place. They get into a lot of different formations to free those guys up. They're a one seed, that's for sure."
The winner plays second-seeded Toledo Whitmer or third-seeded Coffman in the regional final Nov. 22 at a neutral site.
Against Springboro, quarterback Ryan Miller's 17-yard touchdown pass to Adam Booth in the fifth overtime proved to be the winning score. The Celtics secured the win when Ryan Richards forced a fumble by Panthers quarterback Landon Palmer and Dominic Nardone recovered.
Booth ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns and had 42 yards receiving as well as the winning touchdown catch.
"It was probably the wildest and most exciting game I've ever been a part of," Nardone said. "With all the ups and downs, it was very nice to come out on top. Our defense gave up a couple of plays, but we kept pounding and we kept hitting them. Our offense figured it out in overtime and they were able to keep scoring and we just needed that one stop."
Jerome pulled out the win despite being outgained 307-165 in total yards.
"We talk about it every week," Gecewich said. "Our kids play extremely hard."
Springfield's lone loss came against Fairfield, 16-12 on Sept. 6. The Wildcats have won nine consecutive games, while the Celtics have won four in a row since a 28-7 loss to Delaware on Oct. 11.
Jerome and Springfield have had two common opponents this season in Hilliard Bradley and Springboro. The Celtics defeated Bradley 43-14 on Oct. 18 and the Wildcats beat the Jaguars 44-7 on Aug. 30, while Springfield defeated Springboro 23-0 on Oct. 11.
Like Springboro, Springfield features a potent offensive attack, led by senior running back Jeff Tolliver, who has rushed for 1,098 yards and 17 touchdowns on 104 carries. However, Tolliver, who returned the opening kickoff against Marysville 80 yards for a touchdown, missed the second half with a leg injury.
Sophomore quarterback Te'Sean Smoot has completed 102 of 184 passes for 2,117 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. He passed for 179 yards and two touchdowns against the Monarchs.
"Their quarterback is only a sophomore," Gecewich said. "He has a chance to be really special."
Senior wide receiver Larry Stephens has 46 receptions for 973 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had two touchdowns against Marysville.
Springfield's defense is led by senior linebacker Xzerious Stinnett, who has a team-high 114 tackles.
"They fly to the football on defense, so it's going to be hard," Gecewich said. "We're going to have to find a way to win a game again."
Springfield is coached by Maurice Douglass, a former defensive back in the NFL.
The Wildcats are making their second consecutive postseason appearance. Last season, they lost to Hilliard Davidson 17-14 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal to finish 9-3.
"Springfield is big and fast, but if we can be physical like we were this past Friday and play all four quarters, we're going to be all right," Nardone said.
"We have to play physical, play through the whistle and fly to the football because they're going to make plays. They have athletic kids. We just have to be able to come back and make plays ourselves."