Spartans secure first trip to Dome in 22 years

None of the East Syracuse-Minoa football players were born the last time the Spartans appeared in the Carrier Dome with a Section III championship on the line, way back in 1984.

But history has not been on ESM's mind too much -- except for the history it will attempt to make Friday night, when it meets Nottingham for the Class A title at 8 p.m.

The Spartans took a last, emphatic step toward that final last Friday night, at Henninger High School's Sunnycrest Field, where it flattened Mexico 34-0 by pushing the Tigers around and making all the crucial plays.

"We're getting better each week," said head coach Kevin DeParde, adding that the team has saved its best performances for the post-season.

The numbers bear this out, as in wins over Carthage and Mexico, the Spartans have not allowed a touchdown, outscoring their foes 67-3. Since losing to Geneva in the Sept. 1 opener, ESM has claimed eight victories in a row.

This was the second time ESM had played Mexico this fall. They had first met Sept. 22, when the Spartans exploited four Tiger turnovers and won big, 34-7. Since then, Mexico had won four straight games, and the rematch figured to be closer.

For much of the first quarter, the two sides ran at each other with little success, and with each play, the lines seemed to contract.

Sensing it was time to go outside, ESM called an option pitch on third down late in the period. As the Tigers' defense ran to the middle to quarterback Mick Letcher, who pitched it to Matt Cushing -- and watched Cushing go 65 yards down the right sideline, nearly untouched to the end zone.

This was the first of three big plays that ended Mexico's challenge. The second of them came right after Cushing's TD, and did even more long-term damage.

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