Dublin Coffman football coach Mark Crabtree stood embracing his players one by one in the gymnasium at London High School after a difficult ending to the season.
The third-seeded Shamrocks lost to top-seeded Springfield 7-3 in the Division I, Region 2 final Nov. 22 at London, failing to take advantage of several scoring opportunities.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats improved to 12-1 and advanced to their first state semifinal, while Coffman finished 10-3 overall after falling in the Region 2 final for the second consecutive season. The Shamrocks lost to Olentangy Liberty 21-7 in last year’s regional final.
“We had our opportunities and our defense played lights out,” said Crabtree, who completed his 19th season. “I’m incredibly proud of this team. They showed a lot of heart.”
Senior Moussa Diallo and junior Bryon Threats, both of whom played running back and linebacker, were nursing sprained ankles against Springfield. Threats hobbled off the field numerous times in the second half, and senior defensive back Cam Kirk was in and out of the game with a hamstring injury.
Despite that, the Shamrocks outgained Springfield 269-220 in total yards, but the Wildcats had one sustained drive that resulted in the game’s only touchdown.
Coffman led 3-0 at halftime on a 30-yard field goal by junior kicker Casey Magyar.
On Springfield’s second play of the third quarter, wide receiver Larry Stephens caught a pass over the middle from quarterback Te’Sean Smoot for a 37-yard gain to the Coffman 48. Three plays later, Stephens kept the drive alive with a 14-yard reception to the Shamrocks’ 29, and Smoot capped the 12-play, 82-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:03 left in the quarter.
“We have been resilient all year, and we were able to come through tonight,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “This was a physical game, and they have some players over there. We thought it would come down to who had the ball last.”
Coffman had two scoring chances in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Connor Mathews fumbled after a hard hit at the Springfield 30 with 10 minutes left, and junior running back Devon Williams was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-2 at the Wildcats’ 12 with 3:16 remaining.
“We were in a power set, and we felt pretty good about it,” Crabtree said of the fourth-down run. “We had been successful in the times we had used it in the past. In the end, maybe it was a little too long for it in a fourth-down situation.”
Coffman had one more opportunity, but Wildcats linebacker Javion Norman knocked down a pass by Mathews on fourth-and-11 near midfield.
Threats rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries and had four receptions for 84 yards. Mathews was 8-for-13 passing for 137 yards and rushed for 23 yards on 13 carries, and Diallo added 32 yards rushing on six carries.
The Shamrocks tied Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington for the OCC-Central Division title at 4-1.
Diallo (first-team all-league; 111 carries, 685 yards, 6 TDs), Kirk (honorable mention all-league; 3 interceptions), defensive lineman Nick Sayles (honorable mention all-district, first-team all-league), defensive back Ethan Simpson (honorable mention all-district, first-team all-league), two-way lineman Colton Wolfe (special mention all-district, first-team all-league) and Jameel Williamson (special mention all-district, first-team all-league; 36 catches, 540 yards, 6 TDs) led a 22-member senior class.
Senior running back/wide receiver Mike Drennen, a Division I recruit, missed much of the season with a foot injury. He rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and had 16 receptions for 138 yards and one score.
“This particular group of seniors meant a lot,” said Crabtree, who was named co-Coach of the Year in the league with UA’s Jeremey Scally and Davidson’s Brian White.
“It’s not always about the athleticism and skill level, but it’s about the intangibles like character and desire and heart, and that’s what these guys showed.”
Threats is expected to be among the key returnees next season after being named first-team all-district and league Offensive Player of the Year. He rushed for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns on 123 carries and caught 10 passes for 270 yards and three scores.
Mathews (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league) completed 106 of 169 passes for 1,451 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 631 yards and six scores.
Magyar (first-team all-district, second-team all-league) and juniors Maguire Davis (LB; special mention all-district, second-team all-league), O.J. Morris (LB; second-team all-district, special mention all-league), Hammond Russell (DL; first-team all-district, second-team all-league) and Daniel Warnsman (DL; special mention all-district, second-team all-league) are other expected key returnees.
Williams also started as a linebacker, juniors Hayden Austin and Dorian Weaver started in the secondary and juniors Landon Belding and Toby Simpson started on the offensive line.
“We have a lot to look forward to next year,” Crabtree said. “Our players got see what a good team was supposed to be like and how they are supposed to play. A lot of the guys who played like that are returning.
“We have to look to replace the guys who are graduating with some younger guys. Hopefully they are paying attention to what (the seniors) were doing and hopefully they will put themselves in position to do that as well.”