Thrust into the starting quarterback position at midseason can be daunting for any high school player. Maybe it’s best that Springboro’s Elijah Cunningham isn’t caught up in that significance.
“My nerves weren’t too bad,” said the promising sophomore after guiding Springboro to a clutch 24-17 victory at Miamisburg on Friday night. “I’m just doing that I’m doing, playing football.”
That’s as good an explanation as any for the Panthers, who improve to 7-1 and probably secured their second straight Division I playoff berth.
It was the second straight start for Cunningham, who took over for incumbent Jack Schaaf last week. Cunningham’s accurate passing made the Vikings (6-2) pay often in the first half. The Panthers led 24-0 at the break on three short scoring runs by Joe Kylin.
Cunningham completed 19-of-27 passes for 230 yards. D.L. Knock was his go-to receiver with eight receptions for 103 yards.
Miamisburg rallied with two second-half scores from Chris Young. But too many turnovers were its undoing. That’s nothing new; Boro has beaten its Greater Western Ohio Conference South rival seven straight games.
“I just embrace this,” Cunningham said. “I’m proud of my team. They’ve accepted me well.”
Both teams are in the playoff hunt in the expanded D- I, Region 2 field.
The Burg hosts Lebanon (6-2) next week and finishes at West Carrollton (0-8). Springboro, No. 13 in the region, will probably swap computer-point positions with Miamisburg and is at Xenia (3-5) in Week 9 and hosts Lebanon in Week 10.
Miamisburg, No. 11 in the region last week, must likely win out to make the postseason. Teams not only earn points for wins, but second-level points for its beaten opponent’s wins, too.
The D-I playoffs have been pared to two regions, but 16 teams make the postseason in each region. All the other six divisions are comprised of four regions, eight teams each.
Springboro and Lebanon are both 3-0 in the South, with a title-deciding Week 10 matchup ahead.
Another Springboro new player is freshman kicker Charlie Kuhbander. He took over just a few games ago also. He was perfect against Miamisburg, hitting three extra-point kicks and a 39-yard field goal with seconds left in the half.
If the Panthers are to defend their GWOC South title, they’ll have to get more big play out of their tested-by-fire sophomore QB.
“You can’t say enough about the guy (Cunningham),” Panthers head coach Ryan Wilhite said. “That’s what we always tell our guys, it’s the next-man-in philosophy and we’ve got to be ready to go. We have confidence in all these guys. We go to the next guy, we coach him and he responds.”