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S-GI Griffins raid Eden’s field for varsity football season opening match-up

GET DOWN AND DIRTY — Springville-Griffith Institute footballer Josh Cieslica shrugs off the competition, during a recent scrimmage. Below: Devin White-Kearns runs the ball, during that scrimmage. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — Last year, the first meeting between Eden and Springville was a triple-overtime win for Eden. The second meeting was a hard-hitting, 12-6 win for Springville in the Class B playoffs. Both schools open up the 2013 high school football season with a 2 p.m. game at Eden High School.

Springville prepared for the contest with Eden by traveling to Tonawanda on Aug. 31, for a three-team scrimmage with Cheektowaga and Tonawanda. Coach John Sopko said he was impressed by his team’s performance, over the weekend.

“They were focused and ready to play,” said Sopko, about his team’s scrimmage showing. “We used our speed very well. Defensively, they knew where to go, they knew how to get there and when they got there, it was 100 percent. I was really impressed by physicality, defensively.”

In the fourth play of the scrimmage, Springville’s quarterback, Devin White-Kearns ran for a 30-yard gain off an option read to the right. On the next drive, White-Kearns took off down the sideline for a 35-yard scamper.

White-Kearns is a junior and Sopko said that he needs experience commanding the offense.

“He needs as much exposure and experience that I can provide him,” said the fourth-year head coach.

“I think that’s going to carry into the early part of the season. He has a very good senior cast supporting him, on offense. It just comes with moving up from JV to varsity. There’s only one solution to that: he needs exposure and he needs experience.”

Eden returns eight starters on offense and nine on defense.

Sopko added that there are three Eden players Springville will exclusively focus on shutting down: running back Alex Smythe, tight-end Garret DiStefano and quarterback Nick Saratori. Smythe is a three-year starter at runningback for the Eden Raiders.

In week two last season, Smythe ran back a kickoff back for a touchdown and then scored the game-winning touchdown, to beat Springville in triple-overtime.

“Coach Chuck Tilley gets a lot of utility and serviceability out of those guys,” Sopko said. “They are two-way or three-way players. Those three stand out on their roster, as players that we have to prepare and decide how [we’re] going to defend them.”

Tilley runs the double-wing offense that acts as a snowplow with the lineman playing foot-to-foot. Springville has been preparing for the offense all week, in practice, according to Sopko.

When Tilley took over the Eden football program, he instituted the offense that took them to the Class B Championship game, in his first season as head coach. Since then, Eden has not missed the playoffs, including a division title last year.

“It’s tough to stop, because it’s what they do,” Sopko said, about the ground chuck attack. “It provides them an identity. Just like the [triple-play] option provides us an identity. It’s what they know and what they do. There’s a commitment to it and they’re very good at what they do. Anyone who is looking for that double-wing offense, you can find coach Tilley as an expert for it.”

Sopko said that he thinks that his team’s speed can take over the game with two of this year’s starting slot backs returning.

This is the first time in three years that Springville kicks off the season with a league game.

For two years, Springville has played a home and home with Salamanca, to kick-start their campaigns. The league game adds extra importance to opening week for both Springville and Eden, according to those coaches.

“Eden is definitely a regional rival for us,” Sopko said. “I think, when you play Eden, it’s a dirty-jersey game. You can always expect it to be a physical, smash mouth-type game.

“We know them and they know us,” the head coach continued. “It’s going to come down to execution; I’m happy with where we are at speed, strength and size-wise. The winner starts off 1-0 and the loser starts off 0-1. It’s a huge game to start the year.”

Springville travels to Eden on Sept. 7, for a 2 p.m. kick-off.


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