Eden\'s Alex Smythe follows lineman Eamon Crowley during Eden\'s win over Springville in the Raiders\' season-opening win between the Class B South teams. (Photo by Dave DeLuca)
The game was as good as advertised between two physical, smash-mouth teams from Class B-South. When the final horn sounded, it was host Eden that avenged last year’s playoff loss to Springville with a 20-12 win on the opening weekend of the WNY High School football season.
Springville ended Eden’s season a year ago with a 12-6 win in the Class B quarterfinals. The Raiders pounded out 259 yards on the ground with coach Chuck Tilley’s double-wing attack and their defense produced seven sacks while keeping Springville under 100 total yards.
“I’m glad we won,” Tilley said. “I told the kids, there is nothing worse than practicing for three weeks in the preseason and coming out and losing. It’s like working all week and not getting paid. But we didn’t play well; at times, we did.”
The Raiders scored the final 14 points of the game after Springville had taken its first lead of the game early in the third quarter. Quarterback Nick Sarratori took off up the middle for a three-yard touchdown that finished off a six-play 49-yard drive. Eden was successful on their two-point conversation to take a 14-12 lead. The Raider’s would add a six-yard touchdown by Garrett Distefano in the fourth.
“We started strong and we finished strong,” said Tilley, whose team took a 6-0 lead after stopping Springville’s opening-game drive with a three-and-out. “We came back and that showed some character but if we’re going to beat the Alden’s and the Depew’s of the world or even have a chance at winning; we need to play flawless football.”
Eden engineered an 11-play, 78-yard drive to open the game’s scoring. Senior running back Alex Smythe scored from two yards out with 3:56 remaining in first quarter. Smythe finished the game with 89 yards on 16 carries.
In the second quarter, Springville’s Andy Suffoletto blocked an Eden punt and Springville got the ball on Eden’s one-yard line. Quarterback Devin White-Kearns tossed a 6-yard pass to Justin Dewitt for Springville to knot the game up 6-6 as the extra point was no good. The game remained deadlocked at 6-6 as the teams entered halftime.
Just after Eden received the second-half kickoff, Springville’s Brandon Ball fell on a loose ball to give the Griffs the ball on the Eden 37. Three plays later on a third-and-13, White-Kearns kept the ball on a counter-option; broke a number of tackles and scampered into the end zone from 40-yards out to give Springville a 12-6 advantage. But Eden took the lead back on their next possession and would not relinquish it.
Distefano finished the day with 91-yards on just eight carries. The senior was big in an Eden defensive effort that produced seven-sacks.
“We’ve been practicing against their triple-option a lot,” Distefano said.” We had it down — when you practice for three weeks on one offense; you have to dominate when the game comes. I was just trying to help my team win the game. I had a good game but it’s the whole team. There are 11 players on the field. When I’m making the tackle, someone else is taking on two lead blockers.”
Springville will look to rebound as it hosts Dunkirk next Friday night. Both teams will enter the game 0-1 after Dunkirk lost to Alden over the weekend.
“It’s the first game of the year and it sounds tripe to say, but it’s a long season, “ Springville’s head Coach John Sopko said. “Everyone has the opportunity to learn something from this game. Then you apply it and go forward. We’ll get better and move on from this.”
Eden will prepare this week for a premier South matchup with defending Class B champion Alden. But for now, the Raiders want to enjoy the victory to start the year.
“It feels really good the whole team came together,” Sarratori said. “We just pulled through. We had a tough start with some mistakes that we made that set us back a little bit. But we pulled together in the second and it was a great feeling. We got better today.”