By Rich Place
Things couldn’t have gone any worse for Medina in the opening moments of their game last Friday against Springville.
But then again, nothing could have been better than how it ended for them.
After fumbling away their first two possessions, the Mustangs scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter and an interception halted any opportunity for a Springville comeback as the Griffins lost their home opener, 28-24.
Despite losing the lead in the game’s final minutes, Springville head coach Rob Valenti said saw significant progress for a team that did not play with a lead for much of last season.
“To do that in league competition and know we are capable of playing that way overall was exciting and we are starting to see some of the work come to fruition,” he said. “But that didn’t end up being enough. They made more plays than we did. We held the lead for 45 minutes of the game but gave it up in the end, which was tough to swallow.”
At Pop Warner Field in front of the home crowd for the first time this season, the Griffins had the momentum early as Medina fumbled their first two offensive snaps, both of which were recovered by Springville.
The first fumble recovery eventually led to Springville’s first field goal since 2007, Valenti said. Jake Schreiber, who had just finished his varsity soccer game earlier that afternoon in Alden, scored the game’s first points on the 18-yard field goal attempt.
“There’s two ways to look at it,” Valenti said about the field goal. “We got that turnover, we were knocking on the door and we should have had seven points. But I was happy to have the field goal. We lost by four though, so we need to finish drives but at the same time, that was a great play.”
The next Medina possession resulted in another turnover, although the ensuing Springville drive didn’t yield any points. Instead, the Mustangs scored a touchdown on a 65-yard punt return.
But the lead didn’t last long.
On the ensuing kickoff, Springville’s Topher Elkins set a school record with a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Schreiber tallied his first of three successful point-after attempts for a 17-7 lead.
Medina would score again before the half but miss the extra point for a 17-13 halftime lead for the Griffins. At the end of the third quarter, Springville clung to a 24-21 lead thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run by Nick Emmick for the Griffins.
Late in the fourth quarter and down by three, a 52-yard slant play put the Mustangs inside the Griffins’ 5-yard line. A run on first down was stuffed and Springville was able to produce a sack for about an 8-yard loss on second down. But a third down pass got Medina back to the 2-yard line for a crucial fourth-and-goal.
“Unfortunately it slipped through our fingertips there and they got in,” Valenti said. The touchdown by Medina’s Izaiah Rhim was the second consecutive late go-ahead score for the running back, who ran for the gaming-winning touchdown last week in the Mustangs’ 14-12 come from behind win against Depew.
Springville had the opportunity to respond in the final two minutes with two timeouts remaining and a decent kickoff return to near midfield. But an interception after a few successful passes downfield sealed the Griffins’ fate.
However, Valenti said he was proud of the effort the Griffins’ put forward and said it was much different than the team’s season opening loss against Maple Grove.
“Overall I was excited to see how much better our guys played from week one,” he said. Valenti “I told them it was like I was coaching a different team — coaching the team we expected to be. It was a team that had tremendous effort and grit, never gave up and went out and made the plays they were capable of making.”
He added that he likes the direction the team is heading and looks forward to getting back on the field with a healthy roster, something Springville hasn’t had since mid-August. That healthy roster will come against Olean, a longtime rival.
“It’s been a myriad of little things that have impacted our roster so I’m certainly excited,” Valenti said. “All indications point to have all 27 of our guys healthy for Friday night.”
The Olean Huskies, who are 1-1 coming off a 39-29 win on the road against Depew, will host Springville at Bradner Stadium in Olean at 7 p.m. Friday.