Lakewood St. Edward thrived on a ground-and-pound approach in the fourth quarter, relying on the legs of sophomore Brandon White and bulk of three major college linemen, to defeat upstart Springfield 31-21 in the latest chapter of a trilogy between these teams.
Canton, OH – There’s nothing more demoralizing to a football team to know exactly what’s coming and not be able to do anything about it.
That’s the frustration Springfield coach Maurice Douglass felt when Lakewood St. Edward used a ground-and-pound approach in the fourth quarter to bury his team in the Division I state championship game Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“They just lean into you with those big guys with all that strength and size and wear you out … and there’s not much you can do about it,” Douglas said after a third straight title game defeat to the Eagles. This outcome, 31-21, was eerily similar to the ones in 2021 (23-13) and 2022 (28-14).
On the clinching 65-yard drive, sophomore running back Brandon White sliced through the Wildcats for successive gains of 6, 5, 7, 36, 2, 6 and 6 yards. The final run, a 6-yard TD with 1:27 left, hiked the Eagles lead to 31-21.
The approach was simple: Stop us if you can.
“I got three or four holes to pick from tonight,” said White with a sheepish grin.
Opening those gaping holes were Ohio State-bound senior twin brothers Devontae (6-foot-5, 305 pounds) and Deontae Armstrong (6-7, 295) and Michigan commit Ben Roebuck (6-8, 320).
“That’s been our identity all season long,” Roebuck said. “We just keep pounding on defensive lines until they finally give up. From that point on, that’s where we dominate games and win.”
It was a back-and-forth game up until the fourth quarter.
St. Edward ran the ball nine straight times, chewing up five minutes, before an incomplete pass forced a 36-yard field goal by Kellen Moyer made it 24-21.
From there, the Eagles forced a three-and-out and embarked on their clinching drive. It marked the seventh state title – all since 2010 – for top-ranked St. Edward (15-1) and ended a Cinderella story for 12th-seeded Springfield (10-6), which started 3-5 and was only 12th-seeded in its region entering the playoffs.
“They might have worn us out at the end, but the good thing is those big guys up front won’t be back next year, so I like my chances if we see them again,” Douglas said.
White finished with 235 yards on 32 carries with three TDs to pace St. Edward, which averaged over seven yards per carry and needed to complete only four passes to seal the win.
White scored his second TD with 1:39 left in the first half to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead.
Bay Bay Norman returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards, as big-school championship game record, to regain the momentum for Springfield.
The Wildcats recovered the ensuing onside kick and quickly drove to a potential go-ahead score. On first-and-goal at the 4, quarterback Brent Upshaw panicked and wasted the Wildcats’ final timeout instead of simply clocking the ball. On the next play, Upshaw ran a sweep but was tackled a foot short of the goal line as time expired.
“We missed out on a big opportunity there,” Douglas said.
The Wildcats saw second half drives thwarted by a fumble and an interception.
“We were still fighting until the final two minutes,” he said. “These guys showed great perseverance just to get here. This thing was all about a faith walk for us. The house is built, but the only thing is we can’t put furniture in it yet.”