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Mason Merlau among players for S-GI JV team

Springville-Griffith Institute junior varsity team

SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffth Institute junior varsity football team has been working out with the varsity squad, during the first two weeks of camp. The Griffs return three starters on their offensive line and leading the way will be sophomore Mason Merlau.

Merlau led Springville in tackles, in a number of games last season, and will look to anchor the offensive and defensive lines, once again.

“Mason is an all-business type kid,” said second-year coach Greg Hodges. “He has an all-business attitude. He’s quiet, he shows up and works hard and gives 100 percent effort, every game and every practice. Mason is someone that his teammates really respect. I certainly wouldn’t want to find myself in an opponent’s jersey, lining up against him.”

Other returners on the line include sophomores Parker Rice and Greyson Louth. Freshman Trevor Bunch and Austin Coon, as well as sophomore Dylan Gasper, will be in the offensive line mix, this year.

Hodges noted that the quarterback position is up for grabs, after last year’s signal caller Devin White-Kearns moved to varsity. The competition includes sophomores Greg Benstead and Collin DeWitt, along with freshman Connor O’Brien.

“Greg has made huge improvements, this offseason,” Hodges said. “He’s gone to five or six camps; he’s done a lot of weight lifting. He’s pretty much tripled his weight lifting numbers, from last year, and really got bigger, faster and stronger.”

DeWitt filled in for White-Kearns a little bit, last season, and is the brother of Justin DeWitt, a senior on the varsity team.

“Collin is an athlete,” Hodges said.

“He came into camp very well conditioned; he played in a couple of sports leagues. He was a part of our weight lifting program, as well. If those two aren’t enough, you bring in Connor, who was the modified starting quarterback, last year.

“He’s a very well built kid, very polite. All three have great arms; I think our scrimmage is going to be the real test to see who’s going to be the starter.”

In the backfield, Jake Smith will be a feature back. He played opposite Tommy Schweickert, who has since moved up to varsity. Smith will be getting a lot more carries, this season, according to Hodges.

“I think Jake knows he has to have a big year,” Hodges noted. “Jake set his goal high, for this year. He wants to put up bigger and better numbers than Tommy put up last year. Hence the reason why he’s going to wear Tommy’s number this year. He’s looking forward to that challenge.”

The Springville varsity and junior varsity teams began their weight lifting program shortly after Springville walked off the field at the Section VI Championships, last November. According to Hodges, Smith has been around the football program for the past 12 months, even while balancing baseball and wrestling.

Another slot-back Hodges will look to is freshman Ian Baker, who came up through the Springville Colts program, where they ran the triple-option.

The 23-year old Hodges is a graduate of S-GI. He is entering his second year as the head coach of the junior varsity team. After the team finished 4 – 5 last season, the team will look to fare much better, this year. Other key players, according to Hodges, are Hunter Louth, Darrin Ivon, Dalton Nelson and Bryce Szudzik.

Springville opens the season on Friday Sept. 6 against Eden.

“We have a very fast, aggressive defense,” Hodges said.

“I feel very comfortable with the offense that we run, because it’s a very tough offense to stop. I’m definitely excited and the kids are very excited to open up the year on a Friday night, under the lights, at Pop.”

The season begins when school starts.

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