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No. 1 Coldwater stands in Springfield’s way

ZANESVILLE — Springfield High School’s Beau Brungard is one of the more well-known quarterbacks in the Mahoning Valley.

The junior is a superstar dual-threat QB with gaudy numbers and unbelievable athleticism.

Not many people realize he’s also a starter on defense at safety.

Everyone found out Saturday, most notably the Fort Frye Cadets.

Brungard tackled Fort Frye’s Maeson Long on fourth down at the 1-yard line in the final seconds of the Tigers’ 16-13 Division VI state semifinal victory at Zaneville’s John D. Sulsberger Memorial Stadium.

Linebacker Bo Snyder helped finish off Long, who caught the ball at the 3 on fourth-and-goal from the 6 and was immediately hit by Brungard and then again by Snyder. The tackle preserved the victory for the Tigers (11-0), who will play for the state championship for a second straight year.

“I just saw they ran (Long) in motion, and he went right into the flats,” Brungard said. “I knew the corner had deep (coverage), and I had to fill underneath of him. Once I saw him go in the flats, I knew they were going to throw it to him. I just came up on it and made a play. That’s just from mentally preparing all week and knowing the kind of stuff they run.”

The fourth-ranked Tigers face top-ranked Coldwater (11-0) at 5 p.m., Sunday at Fortress Obetz southeast of Columbus. Coldwater is in the state final for the 11th time in 16 years. Springfield is the first Mahoning Valley public school to reach the state title game in back-to-back seasons since Warren Western Reserve in 1972 and 1973.

“We’ve got to expect to walk into that game and go win it,” Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. “We’ve got to make sure we continue to be us — we don’t get out of character. We don’t have to do too much. We’ve just got to play Tiger football.”

A team that is averaging 37 points per game and allowed 48 just one week ago is returning to the state final because of its defense.

The Tigers made two goal-line stands that changed the game. The first came just before halftime, with Springfield clinging to a 13-7 lead. Fort Frye (10-1) faced fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line with 4 seconds left in the second quarter. The Cadets went for it, trying an option to the left side. Quarterback Ian Ellis pitched it to Owen Brown, who was hit hard by defensive back Clayton Medvec at the 1-yard line and stopped short of the goal line.

It helped preserve the lead — and the momentum — for the Tigers.

“That was a much-needed stop,” Medvec said. “It just made us feel a lot stronger and gave us some momentum going into the second half.”

It wasn’t the only time Medvec came up big for Springfield.

The Tigers’ offense was unable to finish drives in the second half, and Fort Frye came out with a bang. Long raced 88 yards to the 2-yard line on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Ellis scored on the next play, and then Springfield was called for a personal foul for hurdling the center on the point-after attempt, which is illegal.

The Cadets decided to go for 2, but again, they were stopped short, keeping the game tied at 13. The Tigers responded by driving to Fort Frye’s 25-yard line. They faced fourth-and-5 and, despite Medvec being one of the best field goal kickers in the state (he made a 52-yarder earlier in the season), they went for it. A Brungard pass went for 4 yards, and Springfield turned it over on downs.

“The first time I probably should have kicked it,” said Guerriero of not kicking the field goal. “I ended up making that call, so this one I wanted to make sure we had the points at the end.”

Guerriero’s chance at redemption came late in the fourth quarter.

After Springfield was stopped on fourth down, the Cadets had a long drive stall at the 13. They did try a field goal, but the 30-yard attempt was wide right and a bit short. Springfield then drove 77 yards to the 3-yard line, but Brungard was stopped short of the goal line on a run. This time, with 5:08 left in the game, Guerriero did kick it, and Medvec — after a delay of game penalty — kicked a 24-yarder for the game-deciding points.

Fort Frye then drove 74 yards on 14 plays to the 6-yard line and, instead of attempting a tying field goal, the Cadets went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 6. That’s when Brungard made the game-saving tackle to send Springfield to the title game.

Springfield opened the game by charging right down the field.

Brungard, who finished 13-of-15 passing for 162 yards with zero TDs and zero interceptions, connected on two first-down passes, and then Austin Tindell busted through the middle for a 31-yard touchdown at the 10:27 mark

Fort Frye answered two possessions later. The Cadets took advantage of great field position at their own 45. They drove 65 yards on 10 plays and scored on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 7.

The Tigers responded quickly. Brungard, who also had a team-high 57 rushing yards, tossed a 29-yard pass to Medvec. Brungard added a few first-down runs to set Tindell up for his second TD, a 6-yard run off the edge to cap a 75-yard drive. Medvec’s extra-point attempt was blocked, however, for a 13-7 lead.

That led to Fort Frye’s long drive just before half, when Medvec made the goal-line tackle. It was a sign of things to come for Springfield, which feels it has unfinished business after being state runner-up in 2019.

“Last year, we had the sourness in our mouths on the bus ride after losing 48-14,” Medvec said. “We just knew right then and there we wanted to come back to this spot. We’re here now, but we don’t want to just come back and play in it. We want to win it and get the trophy and get our ring.”

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