With a sturdy defense as its backbone, the East Syracuse-Minoa football team earned a Section III championship for the first time.
Yet it was that same trait -- defense- that would keep the Spartans from going further in the state playoffs.
In last Friday night Class A regional final at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium, ESM was shut down, for the most part, as Section IV champion Corning East prevailed in a hard-fought 10-3 decision.
ESM managed just 157 total yards against the Trojans' defense. The Spartans were stingy, too, giving up just 180 yards from the opposition. In four total playoff games, the Spartans surrendered just 19 points.
Both teams came in with 9-1 marks, though Corning East had a much higher profile, including the no. 1 ranking in the state Class A poll.
Animated fans nearly packed the CNS stands, and would witness two sides struggling for every yard.
The first half was predominantly an intense defensive battle for both teams. ESM and Corning East mainly traded punts and field position.
There wasn't any offensive continuity until late in the first quarter, when Corning East mounted a drive that consisted of two long runs by Cameron Flory.
The Trojans advanced to ESM's 10-yard line, but the Spartan defense prevented a touchdown. Thus, Corning East had to settle for Dan Telehany's 22 yard field goal to grab a 3-0 lead.
Late in the second quarter, the ESM offense finally came to life. Head coach Kevin DeParde called for a no-huddle offense, from where quarterback Mick Lechter threw a short screen pass to Dayne Bennett which resulted in a long first down.
Then Lechter threw a pass floating high into the air, and Sean Halligan made a leaping 30-yard catch between two defenders, giving ESM excellent field position at the 35-yard line.