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Springville-Griffith Institute’s Cinderella story

The following is a guest column that has been submitted by Springville-Griffith Institute senior and varsity football player Dave DeLuca about the legacy of the team.

Cinderella story. Best story to ever go to the Ralph. Overcoming adversities to become a family. The 2012 Springville Griffins.

Many of you know the story and the journey from an outside source, the media or the talk around town. But what you probably don’t know is the story behind the 2010 or 2011 teams.

On March 1, 2010, the Springville football program began creating the product that most of you have viewed, this season. Coach John Sopko was appointed head coach in the winter and held a formal meeting for all returning players and parents. Being a player in the program myself, I received an invitation. I arrived at the meeting, which was held in the high school library, and saw all of my teammates and their parents there.

In the front of the room was a man I had never seen before in my life. The man began the meeting without saying his name. He began, “Having been born and raised in Western New York, I moved to a town with my family when I was 10 years old. The town was Springville, N.Y.; it could only boast a population of 2,500. Yet, to a country boy like myself, it seemed like New York City.”

He continued to tell us about how he was bullied, as a youngster in school. He would later start fighting his bullies and gained respect from his schoolmates. I was rather confused about who this man was and why any of this pertained to football. He finally said, “I’m John Sopko, for those of you who don’t know me. That was an excerpt from Pop Warner’s autobiography.”

Pop Warner was a famous college football player and coach in the late 1800s – 1920s. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and has been given credit for many innovations to football, such as the screen-pass and the use of shoulder and thigh pads. Many people in the audience weren’t even aware that Pop Warner was a graduate of Springville.

Coach Sopko clearly wanted everyone in the audience that night to learn about and respect the history of this storied program. The key to rebuilding the program, he explained, was to teach the players the history of Springville football and the incredible success it had, in the past. If the players could understand the past, they could see what they could do in the future.

In 2010, the seniors on the football team had to go through a very tough season, in which the players had to learn a completely new triple-option offense and new defensive concepts. The senior group, led by Captain Jason Forshee and other team leaders Brendan Arcara, Mike Redding, Matt Beyer, Joe Giordano and Nolan Reimondo, took the opportunity, head-on. If it wasn’t for their patience in development of this program, you wouldn’t be seeing the product you’re seeing today.

It took a great group of young men to act as the building blocks of this program and to throw all selfish desires out the window. They put their egos aside to develop a program. Finishing 1 – 8 doesn’t look like progress to the naked eye, but the things they endured along the way, the way they changed the mindset of a program and the things they learned will last a lifetime, for those players and players to come.

I began my Friday morning on Nov. 2 with the sports section of The Buffalo News. A friend of mine, Harry Scull Jr., a photographer for the news, recommended that I read the feature story on Springville football. The story focused on overcoming adversities that three football players faced. Each had lost a family member within the last five months.

I enjoyed the story so much that I emailed columnist Bucky Gleason and praised his work. He responded to my email with,”The best thing about sports writing is how much you learn about the character of people. It’s not really about sports, to me. It’s about people and there is a large collection of good people in your community.”

Now, that’s pretty cool. That someone of his status can be dead on, with people that he doesn’t even know personally, is remarkable. People say this team became a family, this year. I agree. But this program came together for one another three years ago.

The program showed signs of life and winning football last season, finishing 5 – 4. It was S-GI’s best finish since 2005.Winning the Chuck Funke B-Bowl Championship, in the process, by beating Tonawanda 47 – 14.

Senior captains Tyler Bursee and Matt Wolcott took the underclassman under their wings, to share with them what they had learned the previous year from Forshee and company. They led by example. They experienced failure and success and knew what it took to achieve success.

Players from both 2010 and 2011 are still involved in the program, today. I’ve seen a number of them in the locker room after big wins and tough losses, congratulating us after big wins and picking us up and dusting us off after games of heartbreak.

That’s how a program starts. That’s how a program can sustain itself. You need coaches and players who believe in it, as well as coaches and players who respect the school, respect the community and the name on the front of the jersey.

Back in 2010, Springville won its first game of the season, defeating Akron and capping off a 1 – 8 season. This season, the team played in the Section VI championship game.

Bucky said it best in his article about the team: “Springville’s football team has conducted a clinic that shows what can happen when a team comes together, keeps working, keeps plugging, keeps believing.”


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2012-11-13 | 23:21:29
This kid has a bright future
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