Having already done more, and gone further, than at any point in 15 years, the East Syracuse-Minoa boys soccer team hoped the ride would continue all the way to this weekend's state Class A final four at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta.
Instead, it halted last Wednesday night at Colonie High School in the Albany suburbs, where another group of Spartans, from Burnt Hills, put an end to ESM's season in a 3-1 decision during the Class A regional playoffs.
This was the second game in a row ESM had met a team with a similar nickname, having beaten the New Hartford Spartans 3-2 in the Section III Class A final on Nov. 2.
Where they differed was in experience at this level. All of ESM's players were new to this, while Burnt Hills was playing in its third consecutive state tournament -- so playing into November was just a part of the routine.
Having also gone on a long bus ride to Colonie, ESM would take a while to ease into the game's rhythm, which gave Burnt Hills the opening it needed.
Forced into a defensive mode right away, ESM managed to reach the midway point of the first half at 0-0, as goalkeeper John Albanese was active and kept shot out of the net.
Burnt Hills kept firing away, though, and in the 22nd minute, Shawn Fitzpatrick took the rebound of a shot and clipped it past Albanese into the net. That 1-0 deficit for ESM would hold up until halftime.
Before the second half was 30 seconds old, ESM broke even, thanks to midfielder Stelan Music, who charged to the net amid a scramble and caught Burnt Hills goalie Josh Klapper out of position, firing the tying goal home.
It remained 1-1 until the middle of the second half. Fitzpatrick sent a long free kick from midfield to the front of the ESM net, where Burnt Hills teammate Steve Childs jumped up and headed it past Albanese just inside the left post.