THE BIG WIN — Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football player Nate Wolcott, No. 22, is pictured during a recent game against Cheektowaga.
SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football team recorded its fifth consecutive win, with a 22 – 14 victory against previously-undefeated Cheektowaga on Friday, Oct. 26.
With the win, the Griffins advanced in the playoffs and earned a trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time in years.
Against Cheektowaga, the Griffs fell behind early 6 – 0, when Cheektowaga scored with 1:25 remaining in the first quarter. Despite being down against a team that had not lost all season long, with 8:52 left in the second quarter, the Griffins took the lead on a 1-yard touchdown, run by Josh Cieslica.
The touchdown put the Griffins in front, by a score of 7 – 6. Coach John Sopko said that he was proud of his team’s resiliency. “It says a great deal about their character,” he said. “They were very focused and determined. Nothing seems to faze them and they’ve been in good spirits lately, because of our recent success.”
The big play on the touchdown drive was one made prior to Cieslica’s touchdown run. On a fourth and seven play from the 27-yard line, quarterback Bill Dickinson connected with Andrew Suffoletto on a 26-yard pass reception that set the Griffs up at the 1-yard line.
Sopko said the play was the result of a good decision made by his quarterback. “The play was a two-receiver route that requires Bill to roll out,” he said. “He has the option to run or hit the open man. It was a heck of a throw by Bill and a great catch by Suffoletto.”
Springville took a 7 – 6 lead, heading into halftime. After the two teams traded punts early in the third quarter, S-GI added to its score, on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dickinson to Justin DeWitt, with 4:08 left in the quarter.
GO TEAM — Springville-GI's Bill Dickinson, No. 12, is pictured taking on the Cheektowaga team. Photos by Jeff Barnes.
Dickinson said the touchdown was a result of great execution. “We ran a bootleg pass and when I looked for Suffoletto in the corner, I felt like he was covered real well, so I didn’t want to force it,” he said. “I looked backside for Justin and saw that he had a good two steps on his man. I threw him a dart and made sure to lead him, on the pass. The offensive line did a great job of protecting me, because I had all day to throw.”
The touchdown put Springville ahead by a score of 14 – 6, with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter. Cheektowaga responded with a touchdown of its own and tied the game 14 – 14, with 45 seconds left in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was a standstill, until the Griffs put together a late drive in the quarter, to take the lead.
With 2:24 left, S-GI scored on a 16-yard touchdown run by Dickinson to put the Griffs ahead 22 – 14. The 2-point conversion was successful, as Josh Cieslica ran it in to give the Griffs the 8-point lead.
The Griffins’ defense shut the door on the Warriors’ comeback attempt, when Cieslica recovered a fumble to seal the victory, with 1:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Sopko said that he was “impressed” with Cieslica’s contributions to the victory. “Josh had 24 kickoff return yards, 49 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, a 2-point conversion, a fumble recovery and 7 tackles,” Sopko said. “He had an exceptional game and this is why his teammates refer to him as ‘Clutch.’”
Cieslica attributed his rushing the ball to his teammates. “A lot of the credit goes to my offensive line, with the help of Bobby Fisher and Chris Phinney as my lead blockers,” he said. “I knew how important the first downs were and I just kept moving my feet.”
The Griffins held on for the 22 – 14 win and will move on to the Class B final at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Sopko said that he knows the importance of this accomplishment. “It’s great for the community and great for our school,” he said. “It’s been three years of a lot of hard work, teaching and time invested. Our players spend a lot of time together and they deserve this special honor.”
S-GI will face off against No. 1-seeded small school Alden, which has been undefeated with a 9 – 0 record, this season. The game will take place on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m.
Sopko said that knows the Alden team will be a challenge for his guys. “Alden has been a juggernaut all season long and will be a very difficult opponent,” he said. “They were expected to go all the way this season and have been perfect, to this point. We tell our guys, ‘One team, one mission and keep your eye on the prize.’”