Warriors spring upset over Griffins at snowy Vets' Park
Springville unbeaten streak ends at 31 games -
By DAN SERNOFFSKY - Press Sports Editor
It was worth waiting for.
For seven weeks everyone watched and wondered as the Salamanca Warriors met team after team while always keeping an eye on the calendar, waiting for that final game with Springville, the game that was postponed in the second week of the season.
After all that waiting, the game finally arrived.
So did the Warriors.
In what had to be, purely and simply, a classic high school football game, the Salamanca Warriors dealt the Springville Griffins a 13-6 setback Friday night on a snow covered field at Veterans' Park.
Undaunted by the weather, about 2,500 fans filtered into the park, but never got the chance to settle back and enjoy things. Action was continuous, and every armchair quarterback there had a chance to guess what strategy would be used next, and then to comment on how something else would have worked better.
Salamanca's strategy was simple. Keep Springville as far away from the goalline as possible when giving them the ball. A couple of quick kicks and some stellar defense did just that.
For the Warriors, it was a fitting finale. to a season that left the feeling of frustration when four points might have been the difference between a 6-3 record and an 8-1 finish.
For the Griffins, it was a heartbreaker.
The loss ended Springville's 31 game winning streak and ended Griffin hopes for the 1975 New York State small school championship, a title the Griffins had been battling for for the past three seasons.
"Our kids played a tremendous game," beamed Warriors coach George Whitcher after the game. "We worked really hard for it, and about all I can say is that it was a great team win. It would be unfair to even try to point out individuals. Everyone did a fantastic job."
"Salamanca outplayed us. They deserved to win." said a disheartened Mick Nugent, Griffin head coach. "I think we played well, and I was pretty satisfied with the way we moved the ball, but Salamanca did the job. We tell our kids to go out there and do the best they can. and win or lose, if you do your best, you've got nothing to hang your head about. That's the way I feel about tonight. Our kids played well, but Salamanca played better." The key to the game was the weather. Although the field was in excellent condition, the snow on the ground left the ball wet, and combined with the cold, made the passing game difficult. That forced both teams to battle it out on the ground, and that turned things into a defensive battle.
Neither team managed to gain 100 yards via the rushing route, and, with the exception of Springville's second quarter touchdown drive, neither "was able to sustain much of a drive on any one series. Field position, from the opening kickoff on, loomed as a crucial factor, and the Warriors managed to maintain the field position.
The all but patented Salamanca third down quick kick worked like a charm Friday night'. The Warriors resorted to the move twice, and in both cases, Bob Paprocki boomed the ball, with both punts leading indirectly to Warrior scores. In the second period, he drilled a 49-yarder that moved the ball from the Warrior 18 to the Springville 33. A play later, Springville fumbled and Salamanca wound up getting the ball at the 34. In the third quarter, a kick from the 45 traveled into the endzone, and after failing to move the ball, the Griffins were forced to punt, with the subsequent return setting up the game winning touchdown.
"They (Salamanca) had us in the hole all night long with the quick kick," Nugent said. "We knew it was coming and there just wasn't too much we could do about it. The quick kicks and the return pretty much told the story."
The game-breaking play was Dan Dry's third quarter punt return. Like David going up against Goliath, the diminutive Dan Dry, a 5-foot-6.,135 pound sophomore speedster, went up against the Griffin giant. On a fourth down from the Springville 27. punter Dave Cole lofted a kick up the middle of the field. Dry pulled the ball in at his own 40. then began to look for running room.
Dry first went to his right looking for blockers, but after about five yards, decided that there wasn't much room there. So he reversed his field and started back toward the left. This time, the Springville defense was strung out and Dry had no trouble turning the corner. He streaked past a number of would-be tacklers and seemed destined to go all the way down the sideline after putting a move on Cole, the last apparent man in his path, but Scott Reynolds came out of nowhere to pull him down from behind at the 15.
From there, it took only three plays. Brad Weitzel slammed off right tackle for four yards to move the ball to the 11. Paprocki came back inside on a crisscross for three, taking the ball to the eight. Then Weitzel got the call again, time, on a power sweep to the right, went all the way.
That made it 12-6. and when Mark Sischo split the uprights on his conversion kick, the Warriors had the Griffins in trouble.
As it turned out, Springville was unable to mount a substantial drive until late in the game. Sischo forced Springville to try to move from their own 20 as he boomed the ensuing kickoff into the endzone, and Springville never reached the 40. A short punt enabled Salamanca to drive down to the 13 before fumbling the ball away, but the Griffins were stopped to set up another Warrior threat.
With 6:21 left in the game, the Griffins put together their final threat of the night. Starting at their own 22. Springville, with the aid of two key passes, moved across midfield and down to the Warrior 34. A pair of running, plays accounted for six yards, but a third down pass turned out to be just a little too long and the fourth down attempt was just too short.
The Warriors took over on downs with 1:24 left and after three plays forced the Griffins to use their time outs, Hill fell on the ball twice to kill the clock.
Salamanca opened the scoring two plays after Paprocki's first quick kick. Springville, with the ball on their own 33, fumbled on their first play with_Chuck Oyler falling on the ball at the 34. From there. Hill went to Paprocki, sailing down the right sideline. Comfortably behind Springville's defensive halfback. Paprocki never broke stride as Hill's aerial floated into his hands .and crossed the goalline untouched.
Following the kickoff, Springville put the ball in play at the 40 and put together a steady drive, highlighted by a 17 yard pass, deflected into the hands of Ed Schiedel. Bill Kestner put the Griffins on the board by slamming over from two-yards out, but the conversion failed to leave it a 6-6 game at the half.
Disappointment shows for Nugent after heartbreaker
Like all good things, it had to come to an end eventually, and for the Springville Griffins, it was a 31 game unbeaten streak that ended Friday night in Veterans' Park as the Salamanca Warriors pulled off a 13-6 upset.
The tone in the Griffin locker room was subdued as many of coach Mick Nugent's players found themselves on losing end for the first time ever in their high school careers.
Nugent, the former Salamanca quarterback who led the Warriors to what would be the start of many outstanding campaigns, was pensive' following the game, yet remained cordial, as did his team, to the conquering Warriors.
"We've won some close ones this year, maybe it just caught up with us," Nugent said. "Salamanca outplayed us and deserved to win."
In assessing the game, Nugent seemed satisfied with the overall play of his squad. Defensively, I felt we did a good job," he commented. 'We stopped their sweep, and that's been their big play this year. Offensively, we weren't as consistent as I'd have liked us to have been. I think that's obvious when you look at the final score. The key was the punt return by that Dry kid. That was the ball game, that and the fact that Salamanca had us in the hole with the quick kicks. Now, we've got to go back to one again."
The loss was especially disheartening in that it cost the Griffins the New York State small school championship. Ranked #1 on the small school poll heading into the game, the loss dropped Springville out of first place and will undoubtedly mean that Croton-Harmon, the #2 ranked team on the poll, will now move up to first to claim the 1975 title.
Over the past four seasons, the Griffins had climbed as high as #2 on the poll, that in 1973, while finishing fourth in 1972 and sixth in 1974. The win streak, before being snapped, was the third longest active streak in the state, bailing only Vestal's 33 game skein and the 32 game streak held by Canisius.
The disappointment, in a historical sense, was even greater for Nugent, as former Salamanca athletic director Lou Foy pointed out.
It's really ironic that probably the two biggest losses in Mick's career were right here at Veterans' Park," Foy related. "When Salamanca lost to Bolivar Mick's senior year (1958), it was the only loss they had, and Mick had Salamanca ahead 12-0 at the half. Bolivar just came back in the second half to win 14-12. That one and last night's loss must have really been heartbreakers, especially since he played in so many brilliant wins there."
Nugent, as quarterback for the Warriors in 1956, 1957 and 1958, led Salamanca to a 13-9 record, with the 7-1 mark compiled in 1958 the best record ever for a Salamanca team up to that time. Six years' later, in 1964, the Warriors put together their first undefeated season ever in finishing 7-0-1, then, a year later, came up with their first perfect season ever, an 8-0- 0 finish.
Springville's unbeaten streak began with the first game of the 1972 season after the Griffins had bowed to Fredonia in the 1971 finale. The Griffs topped Falconer in the opening game of the 1972 campaign, and until Friday night, the closest they came to losing was a 2-2 tie with Eden last season.
If there's any consolation in the loss, it was in the statement made by Nugent early in the season when a Springville teachers' strike forced the postponement of the game.
"If any one is going to break our streak, I guess I'd rather it be Salamanca than someone else," he said. Friday night, it was Salamanca instead of someone else.
Victory over Springville ranks as new 'greatest game'
That pretty well sums up Salamanca's 13-6 victory over Springville Friday night, a win which ended a 31-game winning streak for Springville and a win which will be destined to go down in Warrior football annals as probably the greatest game ever for Salamanca.
Until Friday's victory, the distinction of 'greatest game ever' probably went to the 1961 6-0 victory over Kane, one of six alltime standout Warrior victories over the past two decades of football at Salamanca.
This season marked the 49th season of football for Salamanca, ©fitTfajgjgfgS, years of Warrior football have been pretty much dated since 1957, the year Joe Sanfilippo took over as head coach of the Warriors. Sanfilippo ted the Warriors to a 95-33-4 record in his 17 year reign as head coach before resigning, with George Whitcher taking over last season.
The list now goes to seven games, and Friday's victory shoots directly to the top of that list.
Ironically, two of the games on that list were wins logged while Springville coach Mick Nugent was quarterbacking the team. In 1957, he led Salamanca to a 14-13 upset over Bolivar, the only win Salamanca would post that year. In 1958, he led the Warriors to a 12-6 win over Southwestern, the first win for Salamanca over Southwestern in what has been a long and hard-fought rivalry. Nugent scored the winning touchdown in that game.
Other big wins included a 14-0 decision over Kane in 1965, the final game of the season to insure Salamanca's first perfect season ever, a 54-0 win over Falconer in 1962, and a 30-19 victory over Dunkirk in 1971.
For Whitcher, who inherited one of the toughest coaching jobs in Western New York when he took over at the Warrior helm, the win was especially satisfying.
"I 'm really pleased for our kids," Whitcher. "They've had so much to overcome this year in terms of size and experience in other teams we've faced and I don't really think they've gotten the kind of recognition they deserve. A win like this gives them their due. I don't see how a team could give anyone any more than this team has given me."
One of the points Whitcher was most adamant about was in recognizing Springville. As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the Warriors prepared to head across the field to extend their congratulations to Springville, Whitcher stressed the importance of being courteous.
"Remember boys," he said, this is a heck of a football team you've beaten, and they deserve a lot of credit."
Following the game, Whitcher continued to stress that point.
"I think it was very gracious of Mick to say we outplayed them, because we didn't. I think Mick is really a class coach and a gentleman, and I think he's shown that all along. He had his kids well prepared and it was just one hell of a game. I hope that when my time comes, I can be as big as Mick was after this one."
For Whitcher, trying to pinpoint a single turning point was impossible.
"It was just a great team effort," he said. "Our kids played a tremendous game."
In addition to the two quick kicks, winch left Springville deep in their own territory, and the 45 yard punt return by Dan Dry which set up the winning touchdown, the list of key plays goes on and on. One of the big plays pointed out by Whitcher was Salamanca's success in stopping conversion attempt following the touchdown.
"That gave our kids a big lift," he said, "because they (Springville) just marched right down the field after our touchdown to tie the score. If they got the points, it would have put them ahead and it might have changed the complexion of things."
"Our kids played better position ball than they've played all year," Whitcher said. They played their spots the way they were supposed to. The game was everything we expected, and our kids came through. Springville hit us hard and we hit them hard. I can't imagine two teams being better matched."