GET OUT OF MY FACE — Springville-Griffith Institute’s Josh Cieslica fends off an East Aurora/Holland defender, during the Oct. 4 game. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football team got up just enough offense–and a whole lot of defense–to fend off the East Aurora/Holland team for a 6-0 win on Oct. 4. A 15-yard touchdown run by Nate Wolcott was all Springville needed to improve to 2-3, on the season.
“We got really amped up,” said junior linebacker Pat OBrien, who finished the night with eight tackles. “We all went after the ball and we were super aggressive. We played Springville football.”
Springville used its stout defense to limit the Blue Devils to 138 yards of total offense. The S-GI team’s two biggest plays came late in the fourth quarter.
With East Aurora/Holland threatening to score, with the ball on the 8-yard line, Springville’s Josh Ball forced a fumble and fell on the ball, to give the Griffins possession back, with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game.
East Aurora/Holland forced a Springville punt, but the ball went off the side of the punter’s foot, traveling 16 yards, landing the ball inside Springville’s 20. But, just like the Griffins’ defense did all game, they made the big play, when it came down to it. Devin Pazzuti batted the ball down on a heave from Connor Allen, to stop East Aurora on the fourth down and seal the victory.
“We expect a good defensive effort, every week,” said Springville coach John Sopko. “This week, we got one, with specific guys stepping up and standing out. Mason Merlau, Pat O’Brien and Brandon Ball was his usual, steady self. It wasn’t easy having Andrew Suffoletto go down, but Justin Dewitt came in and played super good corner for us. It’s next Griff in, next Griff up.”
Merlau, a sophomore, was pulled up to varsity just prior to week one, against Eden. He shifted from defensive tackle to defensive end this week, to fill in for Bobby Fisher, who has been sick all week. A two-way starter in the trenches, Merlau had a game-high 13 tackles against East Aurora, this game.
“It’s amazing,” Merlau noted. “The last few games, I’ve been getting a couple tackles, but now I’m really getting the hang of it. I feel a lot more comfortable on varsity, after being moved up. I’m just getting used to everything and feeling more confident in my decisions.”
On Springville’s only scoring drive, Devin White-Kearns hit Justin Dewitt over the middle for 25 yards on third-and-13, to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Wolcott broke three tackles and scampered into the end zone, for Springville’s lone score on a 15-yard run.
Wolcott stepped in at running back, for the injured Tyler Conklin. The 6-foot, 175-pound senior carried the ball six times for 45 yards, in the first half, and chipped in with nine tackles, on defense.
“Nate really put his time in [during] the offseason and came back ready to play, this year,” Sopko said. “I know that he has wanted to carry the ball and [he] gives us, week-in and week-out, great play at defensive safety, or ‘dog,’ as we call it. Every opportunity he has to run the ball, he looks at it like ‘I don’t know when I’m going to get it again, so I’m going to make everything I can out of it.’”
That player nearly made a highlight-reel play when he returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown, with less than a minute left in the first half, but the play was negated, due to a block in the back penalty.
Springville continues their Class B South slate with a matchup against 3-1 Pioneer, on Oct. 11.
“They’re the neighbors and we have a long history with them,” Sopko said, of Pioneer.
“We expect physical football and I think they expect physical football from us. What either [team] is able to do, beyond that, we’ll see. We expect it to be a physical game. We’ll be back to work tomorrow morning and we’ll begin our game-planning for Pioneer. Friday will be here, soon enough.”