SPRINGFIELD – The No. 4 Springfield Millers were riding high as they went into halftime up 13-0 against the No. 13 Lebanon Warriors in the first round of the state playoffs. Springfield’s lead soon vanished however, as Lebanon scored all of 14 of its points in consecutive offensive plays in the first three minutes of the second half, finishing with a final score of 14-13.
“We had the game, so it should sting, and it does. You can tell by their faces, it does sting,” said Springfield head coach, Frank Geske. “That’s what you want to take moving forward. Nothing in life worthwhile comes easy, and that’s the deal.”
The sting is not a surprising feeling for the Millers to have as their 13-0 lead was turned into a one-point deficit in just under 10 seconds of game time. After Warriors tight end Hayden George caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brison Edwards, wide receiver Owen Cline caught a 44-yard touchdown just seven seconds later. The second touchdown came after a fumbled kick return from the Millers, which placed Lebanon in Springfield territory.
Despite the quick turnaround, Springfield was put in position to take the lead back multiple times as they started four second-half possessions in Lebanon territory thanks to a stout defense that held Lebanon to just 3.9 yards per play. Those four possessions ended in a fumble and three turnover-on-downs for the Millers though, who were held to just 36 yards and one first down on those drives.
The loss marks the end of Frank Geske’s first season coaching the Springfield Millers – no doubt a successful one despite the bitter defeat in the final game. The defeat was just the second loss all season for the Millers, who finished 8-2 on the season. While Geske would surely be feeling better if the team were 9-1 and still playing, he knows the team has come a long way.
“It’s going to be give and take both ways. If the other team is given a bit more, then that’s the deal,” said Geske. “You wouldn’t know it with the mistakes that were being made, but they’ve come so far.”
Springfield garnered multiple accomplishments that back up Geske’s statement. The Millers earned an Oregon School Activities Association team of the month nod for September, running back Conner Dye was named the Midwestern League offensive player of the year, and Sam Keen was the Midwestern League defensive player of the year. Dye and Keen – along with 16 others – will be graduating this spring – a big loss for the Millers moving forward.
“They were fun to coach all year long. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that any loss at the end of the year is tough, but this one was especially tough,” Geske said. “Sometimes expectations and reality don’t match up, and they make for a slippery slope.”
The game was Springfield’s first home playoff game since 2015, which was also the last time they made the quarterfinals – a streak that continues after Friday’s defeat.
Top performers: Conner Dye, 79 yards rushing, 1 catch for 21 yards, 1 TD; Zack Sherman, 6-12, 64 yards, 1 TD; Defense, 2 forced fumbles