By Rich Place

Photo by Scott Reagle/The Post-Journal.

The Springville Griffins opened their 2018 varsity football season with a 51-8 loss to Maple Grove on Friday night, but a solid start from their junior quarterback and his breaking of a 36-year school recorded provided some consolation.

Making his first varsity start, quarterback Nick Emmick’s touchdown pass in the fourth quarter not only avoided the shutout but was his 16th completion of the night, breaking the old school record of 15 set by Mark Nugent in 1982.

“That was a bright spot to have a junior quarterback break a 36-year school record,” said head coach Rob Valenti. “That is something we are using as a benchmark going forward.”

He said the Griffins varsity squad had a total of 17 completions throughout the entire year in 2016 and about 20 last year. He also noted the team last year ran the ball about 90 to 92 percent of the time, while this year a focus on the passing game he hopes will bring that down to about 65 or 70 percent.

After all, a good passing game could also benefit the running game.

“It keeps the defense honest,” Valenti said. “Having a passing game going forward loosens up the box and they honor the pass.”

The game itself got off to a slow start for Springville against the back-to-back New York State Class D runner-up Red Dragons, despite what started as a promising opening drive with two first downs on four plays.

A snap over Emmick’s head then turned the tide quickly as the Griffins were faced with a third-and-long after that play.

“We struggled offensively there in the first quarter to try and find traction,” Valenti said. “Our alignments were off and we took the proverbial step back from where we were and how we looked at the scrimmage. They are a tremendous team and they struck fast.”

However, the Griffins did hold the Red Dragons scoreless in the second quarter. Maple Grove added two 12-point quarters in the second half as Springville scored on that 10-yard pass to get on the scoreboard in the final quarter.

“The first thing we’ve been stressing is that’s not the way we wanted to start,” Valenti said. “We have been working for 8½ months and … we are still sitting at zero but we realize within league play, we are still 0-0.

“That was a non-league game so if you are going to suffer a loss the way we suffered, it might as well be Week 1, non-league.”

The league play begins this week, as the Griffins host Medina for their 2018 season opener. It’ll take place on a renovated Pop Warner Field facility that includes a new sign, press box, relocated scoreboard and improved fencing.

“This is the first varsity team to run out under that sign,” Valenti said. “I told the guys ‘you get to do this first.’ It’s something we are excited about.”

This will be the fourth time in school history that SGI will face Medina, with the most recent contest coming in 2011, Valenti said.

“This game against Medina is important,” he noted. “It’s another opportunity to start fast in this division.”

In the Maple Grove game, Emmick went 16-for-32 for 122 yards passing with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Sean Barry recorded 8 solo tackles, including 3 for a loss with a sack, for Springville. Bryson Black also recorded 8 solo tackles.