Springfield quarterback Shaquille Smith sparks win with big plays

HAMMOND — Springfield quarterback Shaquille Smith has had a knack of making the big play for the Bulldogs this season. Especially when his team was playing for its first outright District 8-2A title in six years.

The quarterback rushed for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and a key second-quarter stop by the Springfield defense led to a 16-point outburst, helping the Bulldogs hold on for a 28-20 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday at Southeastern Louisiana University’s Strawberry Stadium.

Gharmaine Austin added 106 yards rushing with a touchdown for Springfield (8-1, 5-0), which scored 22 points in the second quarter and claimed its first outright district title since 2006.

“It’s huge for our program,” Springfield coach Ryan Serpas said. “I’m really proud of everything they accomplished this year. It’s just the beginning. We’re still hoping to at least be playing for another month or so.”

Smith, who directed an offensive attack that rushed for 299 yards, helped Springfield erase a 7-6 deficit in the second quarter when he scored on a 19-yard TD run with 5:22 remaining in the first half before Tanner Wild’s two-point conversion was fumbled into the end zone and teammate Michael Jackson recovered it to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

Smith added his second TD with 9:26 remaining in the game after STA (5-4, 4-1) had cut the lead to 22-14 on Kalylan Richardson’s 29-yard TD reception from Dillon Lee. After Springfield recovered an on-side kickoff attempt at their own 49, the Bulldogs needed two plays to extend their lead to 28-14 as Smith’s 45-yard TD sprint proved to be insurance.

“He’s a big time player for us who’s really done a great job this season taking the reins of our offense, making checks (at the line of scrimmage),” Serpas said. “He’s a very smart player and he’s just a playmaker. That’s the best word I can use to describe him.”

STA struck first after Asa Serpas returned a Wade Wheat punt 16 yards to the SHS 35. The Falcons answered on a 10-play drive that ended when Lee connected with Richardson on an 8-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-7 to give STA a 7-0 lead.

Holding on to a 7-6 lead midway through the second quarter, STA’s Layton Fugarino was stopped on a fourth-and-1 opportunity at its own 47, and the Bulldogs needed four plays to take the lead for good.

“They (Springfield) grabbed the momentum and scored,” STA coach John White said. “I’m looking at momentum here. Fourth-and-1. Let’s pound it, let’s get them. Let’s get this first down and prove to them that we can move the football. One of our best offensive linemen blew an assignment and that happens.”

Trailing 28-14, the Falcons bounced, back as a 25-yard scoring pass from Lee to Luke Bleakley with 21 seconds remaining capped a 13-play drive. But Kimanse Claiborne recovered Scott Sledge’s onside attempt at the STA 49, and Springfield ran out the clock.

Lee completed 14 of 30 passes for 188 yards and three TDs for STA. Richardson caught 10 passes for 119 yards and a pair of scores.

“That offense and that defense did a real good job tonight, but we’ll be fine too,” White said. “But come Sunday afternoon, we’re going to forget about Springfield and be excited about the playoffs again.

“We’re down right now, but come Sunday afternoon, we’re still playing.”