Springfield let a chance at knocking off Northern Lakes League favorite Southview slip away during the second half of Friday night's league-opening matchup on the Blue Devils' home field.
A tightly played contest over nearly three quarters unraveled for the Blue Devils, who committed three second-half turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) that ultimately led to Southview pulling out a 28-14 victory.
The game was tied at 14-all when Springfield running back Elijah Todd fumbled deep in Blue Devils territory where it was recovered by Southview safety Nate Hall at Springfield's 30 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
Southview backup quarterback Samuel Stout broke up the tie moments later when he scored on an 11-yard keeper through the middle of Springfield's defense to give the Cougars a 21-14 lead.
The Cougars (2-2, 1-0 NLL) added to their lead a few minutes later after recovering a loose ball that fell to the turf on a botched handoff attempt early in the fourth quarter. The Cougars went on a game-clinching scoring drive that covered 54 yards in eight plays.
Southview tailback Keith Gilmore, who finished with 159 yards on 21 carries, helped the Cougars increase their lead to two touchdowns when he scored on a 16-yard scamper with 6:43 left to play.
Hopes of an upset of the Cougars in front of an enthusiastic home crowd that sat out in a steady drizzle were dashed in a matter of minutes for the Blue Devils (2-2, 0-1 NLL).
“We've got to take care of the football,” Springfield coach Pat Gucciardo said. “They played so well, but you can't have those turnovers. I told them that's the difference in the game.
“Not to take anything away from Southview, they played outstanding, but I thought our kids matched them man-to-man and played very good football. You just can't turn the ball over against a great football team like Southview.”
Southview coach Jim Mayzes also believed turnovers were the difference in the game, which included a late interception by Ja Quan Bowers.
“It's a wet situation and we're talking about hanging on to the ball, and they gave it back to us twice [on fumbles],” Mayzes said. “I really think that had a great deal [to do] with the outcome of the game.”
Early on, the steady rainfall didn't seem to slow down either team.
If there were any limitations placed on the offenses, it was applied by the opposing defenses.
Springfield's defense held up at the outset and forced Southview to punt the game's opening possession. It led to the Blue Devils taking their first possession and turning it into seven points. Quarterback Scott Seymour directed the Blue Devils on an eight-play, 72-yard scoring drive.
However, Todd did most of the work, carrying the ball five times for 38 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run.
Todd finished the contest by rushing for 132 yards on 20 carries, including a 15-yard TD run that tied the score at 14 in the third quarter.
Southview starting quarterback Griffin McDonald, who connected with Hall for a 27-yard touchdown pass and scored on a one-yard run, said the Cougars went into the game confident about starting league play on a good note.
“It was a very important game for us because it sets the tone for our league play,” McDonald said. “We knew they were a tough opponent — the best Springfield team that's ever been. We knew we had to come out fighting. They hit us. We hit them back harder and came out on top.”
McDonald's touchdown run gave the Cougars a 14-7 lead they took into halftime.
Springfield came out in the second half and tied the game on Todd's second score.
At that point, it looked as if the Blue Devils were swaying the momentum in their favor.
But that didn't last long before the Cougars made the most of Springfield's miscues.
“You win and you're in first place and that's where we wanted to be,” Mayzes said. “We got one strong horse out of the gate. That is a good football team to be reckoned with.
“I feel very, very fortunate to beat that team at their home.”