SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Millers football team took down Marist Catholic 36-34 in an overtime thriller on Friday night. Not only did the win give Springfield a 2-0 start to the season, it also gave new head coach Frank Geske his 250th career win – doing it against the school he coached for 15 years.
“This game does make it a little sweeter, there’s no doubt. I would be lying if I said anything else,” said Geske, who became only the 14th coach in Oregon history to reach 250 wins. “I’ve respected and admired all those guys that I’ve been climbing the ladder on. And the ones ahead of me have my utmost respect. It is a cool thing. I’ll forget about it tomorrow morning, but it’s pretty cool.”
Both teams started the game with miscues and turnovers plaguing both sides in the first half. Bad news came for the
Millers late in the first quarter as well when quarterback Caeleb Kasperek went down with a left ankle injury and didn’t return to the game.
After Springfield turned over the ball on downs with 1:25 left in the first quarter, Marist took over at its own 7. Two plays later, Carter Beebe blew past Marist’s offensive line and sacked Spartan quarterback Nick Hudson for a safety.
There were three more turnovers in the second quarter before halftime mercifully arrived with Springfield leading 2-0.
“I didn’t know what I was watching in that first half. We were someone else, and we had an out-of-body experience,” Geske said, noting that the halftime message was a simple one. “It wasn’t somber and it wasn’t crazy. It was just, ‘Guys, let’s master the obvious here. We’re playing like garbage, and we need to change things.’ And the only thing they can change is stuff on their feet and stuff between their ears.
“Whether we were overhyped, or underhyped, or thinking too much, or thinking too little. Something was making us derail, and we just had to go out and act like it was a brand-new game. Which 2-0 kind of is.”
The second half looked like a brand-new game, as both teams came out firing in the third quarter. Marist scored on three plays to open the half as Hudson connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Erlenbush.
Springfield answered right back as Jackson Babbitt took the kickoff 91 yards to give the Millers an 8-7 lead.
Springfield’s next two possessions ended in turnovers that Marist converted into points, and just like that, Marist led 22-8 midway through the third.
Springfield’s rushing attack kept them in the game. Backup QB Zack Sherman had a 31-yard scramble on 3rd down and running back Connor Dye scored from 7 yards to bring Springfield back within 6. The score was Dye’s first of four on the night.
“We just needed to get our run game on track, and I felt like we really did that in the second half. The first half was just a defensive game,” Dye said.
Marist answered quickly to take a 28-16 lead, and Sherman was picked off again late in the third, giving Marist the ball heading into the fourth. After a third quarter featuring 42 total points, Springfield refused to let the game slip away.
“It was worth it. Our team rallied together; that’s the Springfield heart. And that’s what I came for. Any other school I feel like they would have dropped out, but we got leaders out here,” said Sam Keen, a senior lineman for Springfield who transferred from Marist this season.
After a big defensive stop, Dye – who finished the game with 195 yards rushing – raced down the right sideline for an 82-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 6.
“Big players make big plays in big games, and halftime that was the thing,” Geske said. “(I told) Connor, ‘Where are you? Quit putting on moves in the run, stop putting on all those jump cuts and doing that stuff and just go.’”
Just go was the motto in the second half for Dye, who scored his third TD of the night from 10 yards out on Springfield’s next possession to tie the game at 28. Neither team scored again in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
In OT, Springfield handed to Dye five times, ending with a 6-yard TD. On the 2-point conversion, Springfield brought out the trickery as Logan Hyatt threw a halfback pass to Jaevon Spencer, giving Springfield a 36-28 lead.
Marist answered back with a 9-yard TD pass from Hudson to Brady Bidwell. With one play to decide the game, Springfield made the stop on the 2-point conversion as Sherman broke up the pass from Hudson to CJ Giustina.
After a thrilling, back-and-for affair, Keen dropped to the ground when Springfield clinched the 36-34 win.
“The whole thing was pretty emotional. From pregame to the end of the game. That’s why I just absolutely collapsed. I was so tired. I was so emotional,” Keen said. “All I could think was that this was worth me transferring to Springfield, so I’m happy.”
It was a test of Springfield’s mental and physical fortitude to pull out a win like this, but it knows it can play better.
“I feel like we’ve been a lot better, but we still have a lot to work on,” Dye said. “We still can be a way better team.”
SHS: Connor Dye 25 rushes, 195 yards, 4 TDs; Jackson Babbitt 91-yard KR for a TD, muffed punt recovery; Carter Beebe sack for safety; Dresden Reith FF; Alex King and Zack Sherman 1 INT each.
MC: Nick Hudson 17-32, 216 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs; Aaron Bidwell 3 catches, 114 yards, 2 TDs; Cash Andrus 2 INTs.