Every football team wants to be at the top of the mountain. Not too long ago, Springville was one of those teams looking down at those trying to reach it. After a dismal 1-8 season in 2017, head coach Rob Valenti, now in his third full season, is looking to fix the culture.
“We have to create that environment of winning around here with these players,” Valenti told me during the Lancaster 7-on-7 tournament this past July. “Last year was a mini-rebuilding year. This will be our 110th season as a program and we want to compete like we know we can.”
The Griffins are ecstatic to have Sean Barry back and healthy for his senior season. For Barry, this will be his fifth season on varsity. He was the starting OLB his freshman year when Springville went undefeated and won the divisional title, a season in which he was also an All-League selection.
During week two of his sophomore season, Barry suffered a torn ACL and was unable to return until his junior year. For the first five weeks of the 2017 season he might have been the best defensive player in the division but as luck would have it, Barry suffered yet again another torn ACL in week six, sidelining him for the remainder of the year.
After a long road and completely rehabilitated, Barry is back and ready to contribute in his senior year. “I think he’s the best player nobody has heard of and it’s due in large part to his injuries. This isn’t the script anyone would have anticipated but it’s his story. He’s an incredible young man.”
In addition to strengthening his knee during therapy, Barry said they also worked a lot on flexibility. Although he often thinks about all of the time he has missed, Barry looks at his rough road as motivation. “It happened and I can’t play worried or scared. I’ve been working hard to get back on the field,” Barry said.
Bryson Black (CB/QB) is one of four offensive starters returning. Jackson Richert (FS/RB) is a three-year starter and along with Black are players Valenti is counting on to lead the charge. 6’4″ Alex Francisco lines up at tight-end and is a player that the offense will be counting on to make big plays.
On the line, the Griffins return Jake Cieszynski (G/MLB) and Aaron Keyser (G/DT).
Masin Field transferred into Springville last November from Alaska of all places. He set six school records in track last year. He’s a wide-receiver and cornerback and should create some challenges for opposing secondaries.
Dan Troy has joined the coaching staff and will run the defense. “He’s a huge help to me. Just a wealth of information and the way he prepares is just tremendous,” Valenti said.
Although there are some question marks, like any other football team, Springville has a handle on which areas they needed to improve from a season ago. Valenti, a Lew-Port grad, has been with the program for the past 10 seasons and worked under Eric Jantzi. Valenti is a young head coach with a lot to prove but is building the program the right way.
The Griffins are vertically aligned with their little league and modified teams. A number of former players are involved in the youth coaching ranks.
Up this season from JV will be Nick Emmick who played quarterback last year and could very well be the starter this season. “I’m still working on my confidence,” Emmick said. “Going through my mechanics every day and getting in the reps will definitely help prepare me for the season.”
Joining Emmick are Tom Fite (OL/DL), Peter Priester (OL/DL), David Thompson (CB/DL) and Jake Schreiber, a dual sport athlete.
Schreiber is also a soccer player and will be the primary kicker on the football team. The Griffins have not had a successful field goal try since 2009 and the last PAT made, 2015.
They have their work cut out for them and if they can stay healthy look for Springville to put a few more W’s in the win column in 2018.
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