Cincinnati Moeller football drops DI state semi to Springfield, 22-21

SIDNEY — Less than two years ago, Moeller was coming off a 2-8 season and was without a head coach. The Crusaders tapped former Eastern Kentucky University head coach Mark Elder for the job and the turnaround was almost immediate.

Moeller won a playoff game in Elder's first season (its first in six years), then Friday night found themselves in the state Final Four for the first time since 2014, facing 12-1 Springfield, the champion of the Greater Western Ohio Conference. 

Moeller's rebuild back to being a perennial power took a giant leap throughout the season, but it will have to wait another year to get to the next step after Springfield rallied for a 22-21 victory at Sidney's Memorial Stadium. 

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Springfield was in the Division I state semifinals for the third consecutive year. In their first two trips, the Wildcats succumbed to Greater Catholic League-South teams in one-score heart-breakers — 31-24 to Elder in 2019 and 12-10 to St. Xavier last fall

Springfield wide receiver Daylen Bradley (4) catches a touchdown pass over Moeller linebacker Rashaad Glenn (11) during their playoff game, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

The third time turned out to be the charm as Springfield junior wide receiver Anthony Brown took a jet sweep for a 7-yard touchdown with 3:43 left in regulation, which turned out to be the game-winner.

Moeller had one final crack at a game-winning field goal drive, but Springfield's stout defensive front sacked Crusaders' quarterback Noah Geselbracht on consecutive plays, then blocked the ensuing punt.

Moeller defensive back Tyler Mccoy (21) tackles a Springfield receiver during their playoff game, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

On Springfield's final possession to milk away the rest of the clock, the Wildcats converted on fourth-and-1 with less than 70 seconds remaining when senior full back Delian Bradley took a toss for a 6-yard gain. 

For a while, it seemed like an opportunistic Moeller defense and a sturdy running game would send the Crusaders back to Canton for the first time since collecting back-to-back Division I crown in 2012-2013. 

Moeller wide receiver Tennel Bryant  (10) tries to catch a touchdown pass in front of Springfield defensive back Delian Bradley (36) during their playoff game, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021

Moeller won the turnover battle, 2-0, denying Springfield of points off multiple promising possessions. Springfield quarterback Te'Sean Smoot, the Division I Southwest District Player of the Year, ran for 111 yards and threw for nearly 300, completing 19-of-24. Smoot hit Daylen Bradley on a 29-yard touchdown for the game's first points, then ran in a touchdown from three yards  with 8:10 left in regulation to give Springfield a 16-14 lead.

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