Who can blame Springfield High football coach Ryan Serpas for having a little sense of dèjá vu this week?
Two years ago the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 2A semifinals. Included in that playoff run was a quarterfinal win over Many at home.
Springfield lost to eventual state champion John Curtis in the semifinals that year. The seventh-seeded Bulldogs (9-2) are in line to host a quarterfinal again at 7 p.m. Friday. This time they’ll take on Kinder High (12-0), the No. 2 seed and the defending 2A champion.
“There are similarities between two years ago and this year,” Serpas said. “We understand how good Kinder is. I saw them last year, and it’s a lot of the same guys. We’re excited to still be playing and glad we’re going to be playing at home.”
If you’re not familiar with Springfield, you’re probably not alone. The school is located close Hammond and plays in District 7-2A instead of Baton Rouge’s 6-2A.
By advancing to the semifinals in 2012 and the quarterfinals this season, the Bulldogs are arguably the most successful football program in Livingston Parish.
Surprised? Consider this fact: Denham Springs leads the parish’s Class 5A contingent but won its first playoff game since 1989 two weeks ago.
Springfield’s record included district losses to Northlake Christian and St. Thomas Aquinas to close the regular season.
Credit Serpas for getting his players to buy into two key ideas. First, he got the Bulldogs to learn from the loss to STA. Then he got them to understand that the playoffs are separate season.
“There were some things that didn’t go the way we wanted in the game with St. Thomas Aquinas,” Serpas said. “Anytime you lose the turnover battle, it’s hard to win. We put the ball on the ground on our first three possessions, but we still had a chance to win at the end.”
Eleven seniors helped lead the way as Springfield beat General Trass and South Plaquemines in the playoffs.
One of those seniors, 5-foot-6, 150-pound Josh Taylor is proof that big things can come wrapped up in a smaller package. Taylor set a school record with over 1,800 rushing yards and 18 TDs. He also plays outside linebacker/safety for the Bulldogs.
“He’s just a kid who runs hard and never stops,” Serpas said of Taylor. “This group of seniors is all about the team. They put the team ahead of individual goals, and that has carried over with the other guys.”
Quarterback Milan Love is a solid decision maker. Sophomore Demariae Claiborne had 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in last week’s win over South Plaquemines.
Defensive end/tight end Mark Patterson and inside linebacker Jordan Carter help lead the Springfield defense.
Serpas said there’s even an interesting tie to top-seeded Many. The Tigers (12-0) are the No. 1 seed and lost to Kinder in last year’s 2A final, a game Serpas watched with great interest. After beating Many in 2012, the Bulldogs lost to the Tigers in 2013.
Friday’s winner will move a step closer to a possible rematch with Many in the 2A title game. The focus now is on Kinder and its suffocating defense.
“Kinder can score points, but the real thing that sets them apart is their defense,” Serpas said.
“We have to focus on taking it a play at time, limit mistakes and control the things we can do.”