Before it even got to October, the East Syracuse-Minoa football team had the top spot in the Class A American division locked up.
The Spartans did so by beating Fulton, Jamesville-DeWitt and Mexico, its three closest pursuers, in a span of three weeks, two of them on the road.
After that gauntlet, Friday's game against winless Cortland at Spartan Stadium was something close to a walk. But ESM didn't mess around, and walked all over the Purple Tigers in a 35-0 shutout.
This win assured that the Spartans (4-1, 4-0 league) will meet the fourth-place finisher from the Class A National division in the opening round of the Section III playoffs on Oct. 20.
ESM will go there with one of the area's best defenses. It simply shut down Cortland, limiting it to 116 total yards as Jon Kravetz and Zach Moss each cut off drives with interceptions. They also had eight tackles apiece.
Quarterback Mick Letcher got the Spartans on the board, scoring from eight yards out in the first quarter. He also threw a two-point pass to Adam Walsh after Keith Norton's two-yard TD run to make it 14-0.
After his big game against J-D, Dayne Bennett was quiet in the Mexico game on Sept. 22, but that changed here as he caught Letcher's deep pass in the second quarter, a 54-yard TD play.
Up 21-0 at the break, ESM wasn't done with big plays. Pinned at its own 15-yard line in the third quarter, the Spartans broke out of it when Matt Cushing found an opening and took off, 85 yards to the other end of the field. This accounted for most of Cushing's game-high 137 yards on the ground. Paul Lepkowski added a TD run later in the period.
ESM will start preparing for the playoffs Friday night when it visits Oswego at 7 p.m. Playing in the Class A ranks this fall after years of AA struggles, the Buccaneers are 1-4 this season.