WINFIELD - Early on, it appeared as though it was going to be one of ‘those nights’ for the Springville football team in their 2019 season-opener at Winfield-Mount Union Friday, Aug. 23.
Last season the Orioles crushed the very same Wolves program taking a lopsided 52-28 final in week-one, but mistakes seemed to daunt the Orioles through much of the first half, as well as numerous penalties that killed drives inside the red-zone time and again.
“It certainly wasn’t the start to the season we were hoping for early in the game, but there was a reason for that,” said Springville football coach Joe Martin, as his team completed an impressive comeback with a sensational second half performance keying a 41-38 triumph.
“We did not plan for Winfield-Mount Union to play a zone on defense, and it took a while for us to get that figured out. In that first half as we were struggling against that zone, we had the bulk of our turnovers in the game, and pretty much all of them were in the first half.”
Even with the Orioles (1-0) adjusting to what the Wolves’ defense was going to give them, the visitors still managed to stay in the game battling to a 14-14 first half tie.
Winfield-Mount Union scored the game’s first points when quarterback Daunte Oepping connected on a 44-yard pass to Jacob Ford in the first quarter.
But the Orioles, even with their untimely turnovers, managed to get right back into the game as Caleb Weber found the end zone for the first 2019 Springville touchdown early in the second quarter before Spencer DeMean managed to pull the visitors into a 14-14 halftime tie with the hosts after taking off on an electrifying 41-yard scamper.
“We did a great job of hanging around for not having a whole lot of success with our passing game in the first half,” Martin said. “We made some adjustments at the half and then were able to do a little more of what we wanted through the air in the final two quarters.”
After DeMean’s run gave Springville a 20-14 lead with 8:28 to play in the third quarter, Winfield-Mount Union answered scoring the final touchdown of the third frame to take a 22-20 advantage.
“The game kind of went back and forth there for a while,” Martin said. “It was looking like the team with the ball last was going to win.”
And that almost happened, too.
The Orioles and Wolves traded touchdowns as the hosts led 30-26 after a score withy 3:56 to play in the third quarter.
Then the momentum, and the game completely changed.
DeMean returned the ensuing kick-off 65 yards for a touchdown handing the Orioles a lead, with 3:44 to play, they would not lose the rest of the way.
After Luke Menster two-point conversion run, Springville led 34-30, and they would never trail again.
Though it wouldn’t be easy.
After holding the Wolves’ offense, the Orioles looked to clinch the win moving the football inside the hosts’ red zone once again.
On fourth and two inside the Winfield-Mount Union 10-yard-line, Springville was flagged for a penalty and forced backwards. On fourth and 12, the Orioles seemingly had a first down and were back in business ready to close out the contest.
But another flag came flying in pushing Springville out to the Wolves’ 24-yard line.
“The kids never gave up in that very frustrating situation,” Martin said. “We had that thing wrapped up a couple of different times and had it taken away, but the kids made sure they weren’t going to let this opportunity slip away.
On a third fourth-down try, quarterback Kyle Koppes found Caleb Weber open for a huge 24-yard scoring strike, and with just 1:07 to play in the game the Orioles had a 41-30 lead.
“You have to give Winfield-Mount Union some credit,” Martin said. “They didn’t go down without a fight either. But we were able to hang on and get a very nice season-opening win.”
The Wolves scored the game’s final touchdown with a mere 10-seconds remaining in the clock, and when Springville recovered the on-side kick attempt, the game was officially over.
“If you would have told me before the game that we would run the ball 37 times and still get the win, I’m not sure I would have believed you,” Martin said. “Winfield-Mount Union has a team loaded with big kids, and are much improved, too. They didn’t have that kind of size last year. Coming in I planned on us being able to throw the football and use our athletic ability to our advantage. That didn’t happen and yet we were still able to get the win.
“Kyle did a great job of adjusting to the way the game was being played, and called, and called the play that won the game for us there at the end. He saw something in the defense, and it worked. Great call and leadership skills from our quarterback. We needed to make a play and he made sure the right one was being called.”
Koppes completed 11-of-20 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, both going to Weber, while also running for another.
DeMean led the impressive Oriole ground game rushing for 143 yards on 26 carries.
“Zane Taube, Dustin Sill and Bryce Wilson all did their jobs on the offensive line, too,” Martin said. “They contained things up from and allowed Kyle to make plays.”
Weber grabbed four passes for 55 yards while Alex Koppes added three receptions for another 36 yards.