TRAINING FOR SUCCESS — Pat O’Brien gets in a lift during one of Springville’s workouts in the S-GI weight room. O’Brien is one of 12 Griffs to reach the 1,000-pound club during lifting workouts in the offseason. That’s just one example of all of the offseason work that was done by players looking to better last season’s sectional finalist run.
SPRINGVILLE — The football season may be close to getting underway, but for the Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football team, it never really ended. Springville’s players, as well as its coaches, have been preparing for this season, for the last nine months.
Coach John Sopko and defensive coordinator Rob Valenti urged their players to attend as many camps as possible. A group of players traveled to the Sirianni Quarterback and Wide Receiver camp run by Jay Sirianni, the head coach at Southwestern High School. The University at Buffalo hosted an offensive and defensive lineman camp that drew a lot of purple from the junior varsity and varsity teams at Springville.
Sopko also took five varsity linemen to the University of Akron, for a camp that gave them a unique look at a premier Division I football facility. Devin White-Kearns, a junior at Springville, had the opportunity to travel to a camp held at Ohio State, that gave him a look at some of the best college coaches and players in the country.
Springville’s senior leaders also organized captain’s practices throughout the summer, to make sure everyone was staying in shape and getting ready for the upcoming season. Sopko also ran voluntary clinics on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Wednesday nights would be their 7-on-7 work, in which they got to focus on making improvements to their passing game.
“We are a run-oriented team,” Sopko said. ”Because of the triple-option offense we run, it requires repetition after repetition. We always have to find time to work on our pass game. We had a really good number of kids participating in that, week in and out. We worked the JV with us, so it was nice because they got to know the varsity players and coaches, a little better.”
The Griffs did a lot of work in the weight room, as well. Senior Brandon Ball broke the school record in the squat with 515 pounds and the power clean, at 245 pounds. Ball’s total of 1,530 pounds in his four-lifts ranks him as the second strongest player in the program’s history. Nate Wolcott took home the award for the team’s biggest gainer. He increased the total of his four-core lifts by 400 pounds.
“If you want to play football, and play it at your best level possible, you have to put the work in during the offseason,” Wolcott said. “I feel that all the work we all did in the offseason will be a tremendous help in the regular season.”
Ty Conklin, Springville’s 5-foot-8, 160 pound tailback, was Springville’s second strongest athlete this year, behind Ball. Springville has 12 players now, in their 1,000-pound club. Players need their four-core lifts, to add up to 1,000 pounds or more to be in the club.
“I don’t really care where they work out,” Sopko noted. “I don’t care if they work out at home, or at a gym. We offer them the opportunity to work out here at the high school, as well. Obviously, they worked this offseason — the results show that. It’s huge for our program, to have guys getting bigger, faster and stronger.”
WHAT\'S THE PLAY, COACH – quarterback Devin White-Kearns looks over the playbook with the team’s head coach John Sopko. Photos by David DeLuca.
Springville began its offseason lifting program after their loss to Alden, in November. Dr. James Velasquez, a health and exercise science teacher at Springville, designed the program that kids on both the junior varsity and varsity teams used, all year long, while working out.
Springville’s offseason ended on Aug. 19 when Springville began practice, and Sopko said he believes the hard work will carry over to the season.
“For us coaches, it’s been nonstop,” he said. “There hasn’t been any down time for us, as a coaching staff, and most of the players committed to doing their offseason football work, while still taking care of others of their other priorities. It has been the best of our four off-seasons, since I took over the program.”