LANETT – The Springwood Wildcats watched as the Lakeside Chiefs whittled away their lead as halftime neared on Thursday night. Fortunately for Springwood, running back O.J. Tolbert put the game away over the span of six plays.
Tolbert came through to help the Wildcats silence Lakeside, as he caught a touchdown on the last play of the first half, broke off a 60-yard touchdown run in the first play of the third quarter then made Lakeside pay for losing a fumble by scoring on a 17-yard run to help fuel a 44-26 victory for Springwood.
Those plays were just a few of the big moments from Tolbert, who ended the night with four total touchdowns to go with 16 carries for 138 yards.
Tolbert’s true heroics didn’t begin until just before halftime.
Lakeside (3-7, 2-3) managed to cut Springwood’s 21-6 lead down to three points with under 30 seconds to go in the second quarter, putting the pressure on the Wildcats to respond. They did thanks in part to quarterback Cooper Champion, who quickly hit Will Craft on a pair of deep throws to get Springwood (4-6, 1-3) to the Lakeside nine-yard line with one second remaining.
Springwood’s offense stayed on the field for the first half’s final play, and Champion made the most of it by finding Tolbert in the end zone to push the Wildcats’ lead to 28-18 at the break.
Springwood received the second half’s opening kick and began the third quarter with excellent field position. Tolbert took advantage, too, as he broke a run to his right and raced by the Chiefs’ defenders for his second rushing score of the evening to give the Wildcats a 17-point lead.
Things went from bad to worse for the Chiefs on the next possession, as their second play ended with a fumble recovered by a Springwood defender on the Lakeside 17. Tolbert again took advantage, taking just one play to scamper to the end zone for his fourth and final score of the game.
From there, the game’s only scoring was a Lakeside touchdown later followed by a Springwood safety courtesy of Kannon Key, who was the star of the show on offense to open the game.
Key set the tone early for the Wildcats, as he was the main ball carrier on the team’s second possession and ended the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run for the game’s first points. Lakeside’s Darian Smith answered with a six-yard touchdown run of his own before Key delivered his biggest play of the night, running past the Lakeside defense on a 40-yard run that put the Wildcats up eight points.
Tolbert’s first touchdown of the night — a three-yard run early in the second quarter — put Springwood up 21-6 and what appeared to be on the path to a blowout. The Chiefs, however, fought back, as a pair of 12-yard touchdown runs by Slade Seaborn and Will Dixon put them right back in the ballgame.
Seaborn and Dixon did their part to keep Lakeside in contention; they just didn’t have anything on Tolbert on this night.
Springwood returns to action Friday when it plays Escambia Academy in the first round of the AISA Class AA state playoffs. The Wildcats will be looking for their first postseason victory since 2010.
Springwood 44, Lakeside 26
LAK — 6 12 0 8 - 26
SPR — 7 21 14 2 - 44
SPR — Kannon Key 13 run (XP good), 4:06
LAK — Darian Smith 6 run (2-pt no good), 1:48
SPR — Key 40 run (XP good), 11:47
SPR — O.J. Tolbert 3 run (XP good), 9:03
LAK — Slade Seaborn 12 run (2-pt no good), 3:39
LAK — Will Dixon 12 run (2-pt no good), 0:29
SPR — Tolbert 9 reception from Cooper Champion (XP good), 0:00
SPR — Tolbert 60 run (XP good), 11:44
SPR — Tolbert 17 run (XP good), 11:08