Springfield quarterback Kevontez Hudson had a bad taste in his mouth after fumbling on the final drive in a 13-10 loss at Montgomery Central last week.
Hudson bounced back in a big way Friday night, rushing for 277 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries to lead Springfield to a 27-12 victory over visiting Portland.
“I was sad after that game – I felt like (the loss) was my fault,” Hudson said. “But I knew I had to come out and execute the next game and do my best. Keep my team on my shoulders and execute.”
The victory assured Springfield (5-3, 3-1 Region 5-4A) a spot in the 4A playoffs and helped it stay in contention for second place in Region 5-4A, which comes with home field advantage in the first round.
“It puts us in a good position to be in the playoffs, and that’s our goal,” Springfield coach Dustin Wilson said. “We’re in much better position to be in the playoffs. We’ve still got to take it week by week.”
Portland (4-5, 3-2) slipped in the Region 5-4A race. The Panthers now sit in fourth place and must beat Creek Wood on Friday to officially clinch a playoff berth. If they lose, the Panthers would need Montgomery Central to beat White House Heritage on Nov. 1 to make the postseason.
Portland QB Caleb Mandrell, who missed the second half of last week’s 37-7 loss to Trousdale County, gave his team an early lead with a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He added a second touchdown on a sneak in the third quarter. The senior went 9-of-13 passing for 67 yards and ran for 46 more on 17 attempts.
“He’s alright,” Cavanah said of Mandrell’s return to the field. “It was a precautionary thing. The doctor kept him out last week. We’re going to air on the side of the kid to keep him safe.”
Hudson’s first score was a 17-yard run with 5:18 left in the first quarter. That gave the Yellow Jackets a 7-6 advantage, and they never trailed again.
Kevontay White added a 5-yard touchdown run to put Springfield up 14-6 at halftime. He finished with 57 yards on 15 carries.
In the third quarter, Hudson broke free up the sideline for a 57-yard touchdown run. His final score came on a 6-yard rush with 8:14 left in the game.
“I knew we had to come in and play our best to get this playoff seeding,” Hudson said. “We came to practice ready to prepare, and we came out and executed very well (against Portland).”
Springfield’s trenches were aided by the return of senior lineman Austin Stiltner, who missed several weeks with a leg injury. He returned on a limited basis against Montgomery Central but was a full-go Friday.
“He got his real (leg) brace this week,” Wilson said. “He’s a big deal for our offensive and defensive lines.”
Springfield finished with 390 yards of total offense, 377 of which came on the ground. Portland managed just 183 total yards and mostly lost the battle at the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve got to play a little bit lower up front,” Cavanah said. “They kind of manhandled us a little bit. I wasn’t expecting that. Hats off to Springfield.”
Portland receiver Darius Bell hauled in six catches for 53 yards. Cade Box and Devyn Fuqua combined to rush for 68 yards on 13 carries.
Springfield’s defense had its best outing since beating Station Camp 31-10 on Sept. 13. Senior Mikie Neal led the way with 11 total tackles. Junior Gabe Kelly added 10.
Portland will wrap its regular season by hosting the Red Hawks (7-1, 3-1) Friday at 7:30 p.m. Springfield is set to play Greenbrier (2-6, 1-3) for the Pitt-Carroll Trophy Friday at 7 p.m.
“All these kids go to church together, eat together and play other sports together, Wilson said. “It’s going to be a big deal. Records are out the window.”