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S-GI varsity football team looks back at 2012 season

SPRINGVILLE — Despite starting the most recent sports season 0 – 4, the Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football team turned the season around, by winning its next five games.

During the first round of the playoffs, the Griffins defeated Eden 12 – 6. That win advanced Griffs to play undefeated Cheektowaga, with the chance to compete at Ralph Wilson Stadium, on the line. S-GI pulled off the upset with a 22 – 14 victory that sent the Griffins to the Class B final at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

In that final, the Griffs ran into another undefeated team, when the boys took on Alden. S-GI fell behind early and was never able to recover, as the Griffins were defeated 42 – 7.

Coach John Sopko said he knew how special his 2012 team was. “[We had a] great group of kids on this year’s team,” he said. “Everywhere we went, this year, as a team, I received compliments on how nice our kids were. They are a special group of kids, that spent a lot of time together, during the season, and I think that helped us a lot this year.”

S-GI used its ball control triple option offense in its time of possession, during most of its games. This also helped the team pile up more than 2,000 yards rushing, throughout the season.

Quarterback Bill Dickinson led the way, with 592 yards and 7 touchdowns. Chris Phinney ran for 585 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tyler Conklin led the team in rushing attempts with 122, while totaling 568 yards and 4 touchdowns. Junior Ethan Benz chipped in, with 434 yards while Josh Cieslica ran for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Sopko said he runs the offense that he said he thinks best suits his players.“We have multiple players that can carry the ball effectively, including our quarterback and our fullback. We also have very smart players, who can grasp the triple option system, which is important. Most of these guys have been in the system for three years or so, and this was the culmination of their efforts.”

Sophomore center Bryce Stedman stepped in, mid-season, due to another player’s injury, and helped the Griffs make their late season run to the Buffalo Bills’ stadium. Guards Reed Lipowicz and Brandon Ball were also lead blockers, all season long.

On defense, the Griffs were led by seniors Tyler Studd and Phinney.

Phinney led the team in tackles, with 75. He also recorded three sacks and had an interception that he returned 85 yards, for a touchdown against Olean.

Studd had a team high 13 sacks and was second on the team in tackles, with 68.

Sopko said that he thinks Studd is a unique player. “Studd is a great player,” the coach said. “He’s a player that you try to put into space and just let him get after the ball, to make plays.”

Ball was second on the team in sacks, with nine. Junior Bobby Fisher was third on the team in tackles, with 50, and he also recorded an interception.

Ryan Cordova totaled 29 tackles, one sack and one interception. Nate Wolcott led the Griffs with a team high of two interceptions.

The Griffs finished the 2012 season with a 5 – 5 record and were the champions of Class B south. The team made it to Ralph Wilson Stadium, for the first time since 1997.

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