By T. J. Oakley

Last Friday, a great hallmark of the beginning of autumn, Varsity football homecoming night, played out like a scripted Hollywood movie.  After a festive team-spirited day of school, the kids of Springville Griffith Institute gathered, along with parents and other members of the community, for the much-loved homecoming parade.  Smiles gleaned from the promising faces of our youth to the accomplished and reminiscing faces of those who were present for one of so many homecoming parades they’ve attended.  The cool wind persisted throughout, but the feeling of joy and community carried across the town.

The high school and surrounding areas again were packed with cars parked door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper. From there, my boys and I walked to the entrance of Pop Warner Field, where we joined a large group, gathered to celebrate Springville and cheer on this year’s Varsity Griffins, as they battled the Jamestown Red Raiders.

As my boys and I weaved through the packs of happy people to our seats, we noticed that along with the always-present honorable servants of the community in our police and EMS professionals, there was also a new set of vehicles inside the field confines. The new, unusual presence here to witness the Griffins homecoming game was Time Warner Cable’s live broadcast trucks, accompanied by the locally-famous announcers, Howard Simon and Sal Capaccio of WGR 550.

The football game started shortly after 7 p.m., with Jamestown winning the toss and electing to receive. On their first play, the Red Raiders ran to the outside, but the Griffs sealed the edge and stopped the runner for a loss. The Purple and Gold were clearly pumped up and ready to go, but the Raiders came to the line quickly— running up the middle for an 80+ yard touchdown, stunning all in attendance, and giving Jamestown a certain moxy.

Springville then stalled out on their first drive, and turned the ball over on downs. The opponent looked to capitalize.  Jamestown used the remainder of the first quarter clock to drive down to inside the 5-yard line, poised to increase their lead: 14-0.

That’s when the boys of Springville said enough is enough, and showed that they are bigger, stronger, well-taught, and want it far more than the competition.  LB John Domes, DL Lexus Pollard, DB Marcus James, and LB Ian Baker forced the Red Raiders to turn the ball over on downs, and Springville hit back hard.  On the second play from scrimmage on this drive, sophomore QB Bryson Black took the snap and turned quickly to hand the ball to star RB Ian Baker.  Baker made one quick cut, broke two tackles, and then blazed down Jamestown’s sidelines, giving their team an up-close glimpse of what the rest of the evening had in store for them. Baker took the ball 90+ yards to the middle of the end zone, where he beat the outreaching hands of a Raider defender. 

After DB James increased the lead to 16-7, Jamestown  No. 7 Devan Jackson completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to No. 3 Tariq Strudwick.

Springville received the ensuing kickoff, and began their final drive just inside their own 40-yard line.  That’s when FB Ian Baker took an inside hand-off up the middle, then planting his right foot in the dirt and spinning to the inside around two diving Jamestown defenders.  He broke up past midfield, and took the ball all the way down inside the 20-yard line.  With 22 seconds left before halftime, Springville ran with Baker down to the 10-yard line.  As the pile cleared, the crowd fell silent as FB Baker remained on-field, clutching his ankle and in obvious pain.  After being tended to by the great Griffs management team, Baker was helped to the sideline under the power of his assisting teammates, while doing all he could to keep weight off the ankle.  With the crowd mute and 7 seconds on the clock, standout Senior RB Marcus James took the ball wide around the left side of the line and into the end zone for a 10-yard TD run, taking Springville into halftime with a 22-13 lead.

The second half proved to be just as frustrating for Jamestown, as the Griffins imposed their will upon the visiting squad.  As Springville held and added to the lead, the attention of the crowd began to shift from winning and losing to the question: when will Baker break the all-time school record in rushing yards?  The Griff’s offensive line continued to punish the Red Raiders, and then Baker put an exclamation point on the evening with a 59-yard touchdown run that electrified all in attendance, and solidified his accomplishments in school lore.

Springville ended the game with a 32-21 victory, and improved their record to 3-2 on the season and remain at 2-1 in league play.  Next week Springville will travel down Route 39 to the town of Dunkirk, facing the Marauders at 7 p.m.  This is a league game, and both teams are 2-1 in league play.  As the second to last game of the season, the Griffins need a big showing to stay in consideration for playoff football.  Olean held on to beat Pioneer in overtime last week, and have improved to 4-0.  The last regular season game of the year is at home on Oct. 14 when the Griffins face off against East Aurora/Holland, at home on Pop Warner Field.