Grif gets tough yards
Tamaqua's Grif Griffths, right, is congratulated by head coach Sam Bonner after being named TIMES NEWS Football Player of the Week. Griffiths carried 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns in last Friday's 42-6 win over Kutztown.
His full name is E. Franklin Griffiths IV, but around Tamaqua Area High School, he answers to Grif.
Grif is a much more appropriate name for the gridiron, especially fitting for the hard-nosed running back and linebacker Griffiths has been for the Blue Raiders.
The 6-1, 190 pound junior is the leading rusher for a Raider team that is 5-0 at this point in the season for the first time since 1956.
Griffiths has been picking up steam the past two weeks, running for 101 yards against Mahanoy Area, then piling up a career-best 173 yards on 23 carries and scoring two touchdowns in Tamaqua's 42-6 rout of Kutztown, which earned him TIMES NEWS Football Player of the Week honors.
Griffiths has been a varsity starter since his freshman season, when he was playing nose guard and defensive tackle.
Last season, Griffiths was the Raiders' second leading rusher behind Wayde Williams, carrying the ball 80 times for 465 yards and scoring eight TDs as Tamaqua went 8-4, qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 1984 and advancing to the Eastern Conference Class AA championship game.
Griffiths has already surpassed his rushing total of last year, gaining 468 yards on 91 carries and scoring six TDs. He is the back the Raiders count on to pick up the tough yardage on the ground.
"Grif is continuing to run tough for us," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "He is one of those guys who can run either way, going around you or running over you. I can't say enough about the way he's running the football and blocking, too.
"The sign of a good back is not going down after you get hit, and Grif does a great job with that. He gets a lot of the tough 5-6 yard runs and gets the big first downs when we need to move the chains."
At inside linebacker, Griffiths is also second on the team in tackles and made eight stops against Kutztown.
Grif's siblings have enjoyed athletic careers at Tamaqua. His sister, Alexa, was a Schuylkill League District 11 cross country and track champion who is now running at Bucknell. Brother Sam made his niche in cross country as well, while Max played soccer and baseball.
Football has been Grif's game. He has paid a price for his love of the sport, having shoulder surgery after the past two seasons, but he has worked hard to get himself in top condition.
"When I was a freshman, I was playing nose guard and I was only 160 pounds, so I wasn't big," Griffiths said. "I'm 190 now and I trained with coach Bonner (who is a professional athletic trainer) and put on weight and muscle. Coach got us all lifting, got us stronger and got us coming together as a team."
That includes up front, where the Raiders offensive line has been clearing the way for Griffiths, fullback Garth Lakitsky and Jared Muffley.
"Garth and I are power backs, so we go in looking for a hole and power through it hard," explained Griffiths. "Against Kutztown, our line blew them off the ball, big time. There were holes for me the whole time."
Griffiths likes what he has seen out of the Raiders this season to date.
"We're really putting it together," he said. "Our line has stepped it up tremendously, and we have (quarterback Ryan) Palsgrove, Chickie (wide receiver Anthony Bumbulsky), Garth and (wide receiver Mike) Streisel making big plays for us."
Griffiths is almost halfway to the 1,000 yard mark this season, a milestone for running backs.
"It would be nice to rush for 1,000 yards, and the way our line is going now, I think we can do it," he added.