THORNBURY — The Glen Mills Battlin' Bulls have a team motto. Their manager says it. Their coaches say it. Their players say it and take it to heart: "Turn down for what?'
"It means to go all in,' said senior linebacker Douglas Coburn. "Play to the best of our ability.'
On Friday night it was "Turn down for what?' and turnovers for all for Glen Mills. The Bulls' defense forced the visiting Springfield Cougars into an astonishing eight turnovers in a 32-18 District One AAA quarterfinal victory.
"We love flowing to the ball,' Coburn said. "We love taking the ball from the other team.'
On Springfield's second play from scrimmage, the Bulls set the tone for the night. Defensive back Jamie Gilmore snatched a Brian Allen overthrow and returned the interception 35 yards for the opening touchdown. On the Cougars' next drive, Allen fumbled while pushing for a first down. Shaaheen Dow picked up the loose ball and took it into Springfield territory. Two plays later he broke out of a clump of tacklers for a 30 yard score.
"Our coaches told us to ' lay the wood,'' Coburn said. "Our defense likes to get the momentum going our way.'
It certainly achieved that. John Ferguson fumbled inside the Bulls' five on Springfield's next drive. Allen was picked off twice more before the half was over. Both landed in the waiting hands of Israel Crane.
"I went to bite on the throws and I picked them,' Crane said. "[Allen] is a nice athlete. I was amazed I got to him.'
A botched Allen hand-off resulted in yet another turnover, the Cougars' sixth of the first half. Dontae Coates' beautifully thrown fade to Kaheem Brower took the Bulls' lead to 19-0 as the teams went to the locker rooms.
Springfield coach Tom Kline had a choice to make: stick with a struggling Allen, or bring in backup Charlie Corbin who began the season as the starter. He chose the former.
"He doesn't give up. I'm never going to give up on him,' Kline said. "[Allen] is always trying to make plays for his team. Turnovers are going to happen. But he's trying to win.'
Kline's faith was temporarily rewarded. Allen put Springfield on the board with a seven-yard run late in the third quarter. Facing a fourth-and-11 from the Glen Mills 19 early in the fourth, Allen slung a pass to James Harris, who found the end zone. It was 19-12.
With the Cougars offense moving and, more importantly, holding onto the ball, Glen Mills was forced out of the favorable field position it enjoyed in the first half. The Bulls had to make a play. Their game-breaking running back, Dow, stepped up.
"During the first half [Springfield] was taking the insides away,' said the senior. "I told my fullbacks at half-time ' Turn them inside and I'll go out.''
On the Bulls' first play following Springfield's second touchdown, Dow did just that. He cut right out of the backfield and ran for the edge where he was met by a Cougars defender. With his legs wrapped up, Dow spun and kicked his way out of the tackle and sprinted 67 yards for the touchdown. In the open field, no one was going to catch him.
"My coaches say ' kick them off.' That's what I did,' Dow said of his long run. "I came free, hopped over [the defender] and I was gone.'
Dow finished with 110 yards rushing on only 15 carries.
The touchdown sealed the victory for the Bulls. Allen would throw two more interceptions, one each to Brower and Tyesheed Freeman, before the game was over. A Coates one-yard rush and an Allen 22-yard pass to Dan Dickinson completed the scoring.
Springfield outgained Glen Mills 390 to 198. Allen amassed 257 yards and two touchdowns through the air, as well as 115 yards and a score on the ground. But those eight turnovers, six directly attributed to the quarterback, crippled the Cougars' effort. Kline admitted that it comes with the territory of coaching a young team.
"There's exciting things, and then there's frustrating things about a young team,' he said. "It's learning by fire.'
Kline remains optimistic about Springfield's fortunes looking toward next year. After all, Allen is only a junior and he showed flashes of brilliance throughout the second half. He can be accused of trying to do too much, but Kline insists that's part of the process.
"He makes mistakes, but he'll learn from them,' the coach said.
As for the Bulls, they can look forward to a semifinal game, and as Coburn sees it, even further.
"If we play to our potential,' said the linebacker who finished with an astounding 20 tackles, "we should go a long way.'
He quickly added, lest we forget, "Turn down for what?'