FANCY FEET — Andy Suffoletto scrambles past the opposition during a first-quarter interception. Springville-Griffith Institute lost to Salamanca during its homecoming game on Sept. 29. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football team forced a punt and got the ball with a little more than three minutes remaining in the team’s homecoming game against Salamanca on Sept. 27. Trailing 8-7, Springville started on its own 35-yard line, looking to take the lead with either a touchdown or a field goal.
Springville drove down to the Warriors’ 5-yard line, using six different ball carriers. After Ethan Benz ran for 9 yards, for a first down, quarterback Devin White-Kearns was sacked, for a 10 yard loss.
A personal foul was also called on the Griffins during the play that put them in for a second and goal from the 30-yard line. The Warriors intercepted White-Kearns on the next play, and would run out the clock to hold on.
After the game, Springville coach John Sopko said that the sack was a result of a miscommunication between himself and his players, in the huddle, that stalled their drive. In the loss, Springville outgained Salamanca, in terms of total offense.
Springville racked up 224 yards while Salamanca mustered 164. The Griffs’ 224 yards came on six possessions, the entire game. The Warriors ran 52 offensive plays to Springville’s 37.
“That’s the case of our defense not getting off the field,” said Sopko, about Springville’s lack of possession. “It seemed like we were looking in the backfield too much, when we knew we shouldn’t be looking too much, with the offense that they run. We let them have the ball too long and let them grind it.”
Springville ran for a season-high 199 yards rushing. Springville’s only scoring drive was a six-play, 99-yard drive that was finished off by White-Kearns on a 1-yard plunge. The big play on the drive was a 56-yard run by White-Kearns, when Springville had the ball on the Salamanca 1. That player also led the ground game, with seven carries for 85 yards.
Tyler Conklin chipped in with eight carries for 45 yards. The season-high on the ground was paved by four underclassman, starting on Springville’s offensive line. The line consists of senior Brandon Ball, junior Bryce Stedman and a trio of sophomores in Pat Hannon, Josh Ball and Mason Merlau.
“I think they have progressed well,” said assistant coach and offensive line coach Rob Valenti. “The one thing that stands out about young lineman is feet. One thing I’ve really seen them progress with is their footwork. Sure, understanding blocking schemes, rules and responsibilities have helped tremendously, but I’ve really seen them improve their footwork.”
Merlau and Ball began the year starting primarily on Springville’s defensive front, but are now playing two ways. Springville had to replace three offensive lineman from last year’s team, including two all-league players, in Tyler Studd and Reed Lipowicz.
“People don’t realize how tough of a challenge it is to have four underclassmen on an offensive line, in a division like B-South,” said Sopko. “B-South always has had some outstanding lineman, on both sides of the ball. Our sophomores were brought up to speed by our JV coaches, Bill Dickinson and Greg Hodges last year, because they weren’t challenged with basic footwork, gaps and techniques, prior to junior varsity. They’re still learning on the go; however, they’re doing a great job listening and making the correct adjusts to their game.”
Defensively, Brandon Ball led the way, with nine tackles and two sacks against Salamanca. After the game, Ball was named a Trench Trophy nominee by the Trench committee. That award is given for the best lineman in Western New York.
Through four games, Ball has accounted for five sacks and is almost the team lead in tackles. His 10-tackle, two-sack performance against Dunkirk, in week two, earned him Upstate Football Weekly defensive player of the week honors. Andy Suffoletto was in on a team-high 10 tackles, in the loss.
Springville’s record sits at 1-3 and the team’s three-game home stand ends this week, as they travel to East Aurora on Oct. 4.