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Bills/Colts Merger puts long-standing rivalry to rest

Mason Goodridge runs through a pad during Little Loop practice. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
After calisthenics and stretches were complete, Springville midget football coach Tom Poppenberg told his team to get in two lines, facing one another.

One line was for those who played for the Springville Bills. The other line was those who played for the Springville Colts.

“Walk across the field and shake each other’s hand, now you’re Griffins,” Poppenberg told his players.

Aug. 1 marked the Springville Little League’s first practice as Griffins and the start of a new chapter after the teams’ recent merger. Parents, players and cheerleaders packed the home side bleachers at Pop Warner Field in Springville for meeting before the football and cheerleading teams began their first practice of the summer.

“We’ve had a rivalry for a long time, it’s nice to come together,” midget football player Mason Goodridge said. “Everyone will get along and be one team. It’s going to be a fun season, with the talent we have, I think we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Goodridge will be a part of the midget team that has a roster of 33 kids. Dave Filighera and Tom Poppenberg will share coaching duties. Filighera coached the midget Bills last season and Poppenberg coach the midget Colts. Between the two, they have 35 years of coaching experience.

“It’s exciting to see it progress to the point we’re at right now,” Poppenberg said. “The end goal is to get these kids ready for the varsity level -- staying with the program through the alignment and seeing the kids get to [Ralph Wilson] Stadium.

“I’m happy to see it finally happen, it’s been a long time coming,”Filighera said. “We’re one town, one team and I think we’re going to be pretty competitive.”

Both coaches will be adjusting to different roles than they’re use to. Instead of overseeing the entire team, Filighera will run the defense and Poppenberg will run the offense.

“That’s going to give each one of us a little bit of a break,” Poppenberg said. “We don’t have to oversee everything on both sides of the ball. It’s going to work out well I think.”

The Cattaraugus County Midget Football League approved Springville’s merger at the league meeting on July 29. While Springville needed the CCMFL to approve the merger to play in the league, if the league wouldn’t have approved the merger, Springville would have played an independent schedule or joined another league.

“The league understood that we were struggling with our numbers and didn’t have a problem with it,” League president Kelly Baker said. “A couple of the smaller teams weren’t happy about it, but they didn’t have a choice, it had to be done.”

Springville’s complete schedule will be released in the coming weeks.

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