Oct 23, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Sure, a 6-1 regular-season mark was nice. And an outright Class A American division regular-season championship looked good, too.
But the East Syracuse-Minoa football team was after more. A year ago, the Spartans had enjoyed similar success, only to fall apart in a 17-3 first-round playoff loss at home to New Hartford.
Everything ESM had done in the ensuing 12 months was designed to atone for that early exit — and this time around, it didn’t happen.
On the turf at Sunnycrest Field next to Henninger High School last Friday night, the Spartans pushed around the Carthage Comets, roaring to a 33-3 victory in the opening round of the Class A playoffs.
ESM and Carthage were supposed to meet at Spartan Stadium, but the flooding rains late last week rendered the field unplayable. So they moved the whole show to Henninger, where rain and sleet fell — but the Spartans would stay hot.
Any lingering doubts about ESM’s playoff readiness disappeared quickly. Midway through the first quarter, Carthage had to punt — and the snap sailed over Robert Newman’s head, forcing him to cover it inside the Comets’ 20-yard line.
Staying on the ground in the gusty conditions, the Spartans quickly converted, as Mick Letcher went the final yard for the touchdown to put ESM up 7-0.
It looked to be trouble when, at the start of the second period, the Spartans were pinned at its own four-yard line.
What followed was a backbreaking march. Eating up more than eight minutes of clock, the Spartans went 96 yards, converting five first downs and slowly wearing the Comets’ resistance down.
Eventually, that wear and tear showed, as Matt Cushing broke loose and scored from 22 yards out. Though Andy Heagle’s extra point was missed, ESM was up 13-0, and were it not for a stop at the goal line right before halftime, the Spartans would have enjoyed a bigger edge at the break.
But the Spartans shrugged it off and kept plugging away on the ground. Cushing’s second TD was a two-yard run in the third quarter, set up by Cushing going 46 yards for a long one. Cushing eventually finished with 182 yards on 25 carries.
Pulling away down the stretch, ESM got TD’s from Corey Gerace and Jon Kravetz, the latter on a six-yard scoring pass from Letcher.
Strong all night, ESM’s defense held Carthage to a single field goal and rarely gave the Comets strong field position.
ESM, having come this far for the first time since 2000, now gets to return to Henninger Friday night at 6:30 to deal with Mexico in the Class A semifinals.
Having its best season in two decades, Mexico is 6-2 and is fresh off a 26-14 first-round playoff win over New Hartford, done on the road. What’s more, it is seeking to avenge a 34-7 loss to ESM on Sept. 22 where five turnovers by the Tigers made the difference.
A win here will put the Spartans in its first-ever sectional final at the Carrier Dome against Jamesville-DeWitt or Nottingham, two teams that staged big upsets in the opening road — the Rams over Whitesboro, the Bulldogs over New Hartford.