Springville comes back for first playoff win since 1997
The Griffins were in position to win, but found themselves on the trailing end of the score. Much like the last half of the season, Springville turned it around, before it was too late.
Eden dominated for much of the first half, but took only a 6-point lead, into the break. Springville scored 12 unanswered points, to steal a Class B quarterfinal 12 – 6, in rainy weather and on a sloppy field, on Saturday.
Close games nearly kept Springville out of the playoffs, but the Griffins rallied from an 0 – 4 start, to win their final three regular season games, before capturing its first playoff win since the 1997 season, playing as the sixth seed at No. 3 Eden. Springville won the state title in 1996.
One of those losses earlier in the season was to Eden in a 19 – 13 triple overtime game. In that contest, Springville failed to score on a number of drives that ended in Eden territory, while giving up a fourth quarter kick return touchdown, to send the game into overtime.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity this year, so I don’t think this was anything particularly new for us,” Springville Head Coach John Sopko said. “They’ve learned about adversity and how to deal with it, over the last three years of the rebuilding the program. I’m very proud of the way we played, especially on defense.”
While Springville’s defense was a constant throughout the game, holding the Raiders out of the end zone, Springville’s offense came into play during the final two quarters. The Griffins continued to run their triple option offense, but opened up some space, by spreading the field and running plays with two and three receivers split outside.
Senior fullback Chris Phinney busted a 50-yard run up the middle on the third play from scrimmage, in the second half. He finished with 111 yards on 12 carries, after being held to three yards in the first half. He also recorded 14 tackles from his linebacker spot on defense.
The game-winning score came with 3:30 left in the final quarter, when Josh Cieslica ran into the end zone from 19 yards out, finishing off an 85-yard drive in seven plays and fewer than 3 minutes. Tyler Conklin added a 29-yard run, during the drive.
“It feels awesome. It’s amazing and crazy to think that we finally beat these guys,” said Phinney, who experienced defeating Eden for the first time in four tries, in this, his third year with the varsity.
“Our line just got a better push and we were able to run the ball to the inside and outside a little better [in the second half],” Phinney added.
Springville turned the ball over twice and picked up one first down, during the first half. The Griffins gained 208 yards on the ground in the second half, without needing one completed pass from senior quarterback Billy Dickinson.
“We just played the way we’re capable of, which we didn’t do in the first half,” Sopko said. “I went into the playbook and pulled out the trips formation. The offensive line is the defensive line, so I asked them to play offensively, like they were defensively. We ran our offense; we didn’t do anything out of the norm. We spread the field a little more; our quarterback made his dive reads correctly and the fullback is a man, so he ran like a man.”
Eden had made a season out of winning close games. Despite being a junior-laden squad, the Raiders went 6 – 1 in the regular season, winning three of those games by 2 or fewer points and a fourth in that triple overtime.
The Raiders’ good fortune in close games came to a halt, after they earned a Class B South Division title.
“This is the difference between a team with a lot of seniors and a team with a lot of juniors and they started wearing us a down a little bit [in the second half],” Eden Head Coach Chuck Tilley said. “We had a couple more opportunities, early in the game, where we should have had at least one more score, and an opportunity where we did get a field goal, but probably should have gotten a touchdown.”
Eden received field goals from 25 and 23 yards out from Kyle Gibbon, to get out to a 6 – 0 halftime lead. Similar to last week, in a game it was able to pull out 8 – 7 against Southwestern, Eden did not take advantage of a number of opportunities.
The Raiders were deep inside Springville territory on three occasions in the first half and got no points. Once, they were intercepted and twice, they turned the ball over on downs.
Before the first field goal, which was kicked with 1:29 left in the second quarter, Eden quarterback Mike Sarratori and running back Alex Smythe ran into one another on a botched formation, as a receiver ran open in the end zone, on third and goal.
After Connor Gallivan picked up a fumble on Springville’s ensuing drive, the Raiders had to settle once again for a field goal, when they were unable to score on two consecutive plays from the Springville 8- and then 5-yard lines.
“We knew, sooner or later, that if they kept running their stuff, they would pop a couple and it happened,” Tilley said, of Springville’s second half spurt. “Our kids battled. The game was very similar to the first game [the teams played this season]. We could have won this football game. We had our chances, but we didn’t take advantage when we did have them. At least, not enough.”
Springville’s defensive effort was also led by senior lineman Tyler Studd and junior lineman Brandon Ball, both of whom were in on a number of plays for losses. Nate Wolcott added an interception and a sack for Springville, while Ryan Cordova contributed a sack.
Smythe returned after missing the last three weeks due to an illness, and hit a few runs, but many times was stifled by Springville’s defense, which allowed 2 rushing scores this entire season.
Smythe, which scored one of those touchdowns in the game earlier this season, rushed for 56 yards on 15 carries Saturday.
Junior fullback Garrett DiStefano added 43 yards on 9 carries. Also, for Eden, Kyle Wagner had 2 sacks and added a fumble recovery, while DiStefano and Gallivan shared a sack.
The win was Springville’s redemption against Eden, which ran away with a win against Springville during last year’s season finale, in conditions similar to those of Saturday, as both of the football teams competed for a final, playoff spot.
“It was good ol’ Eden – Springville football,” said Sopko, whose team moved on to play in the semifinals on Friday, Oct. 26 at second-seeded and unbeaten Cheektowaga, a team Springville scrimmaged in the preseason. “Historically, we’ve had some good head knockers.”