Sep 01, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Quite simply, the East Syracuse-Minoa football team is in the midst of the most successful run in the program’s history.
In the last three seasons, the Spartans have gone 23-6, squeezing in a Section III Class A title in 2006 and laying claim to three consecutive league championships.
Head coach Kevin DeParde said two primary factors are responsible for this upturn. First, he cited the team’s strength and conditioning program, which got a boost when a state-of-the-art weight room opened a few years ago.
Second, DeParde said that the team’s success has brought out more multi-sport athletes. Indeed, it’s rare to find a key ESM player that doesn’t play some other varsity sport.
Participation numbers have soared past triple figures — 45 this year on the varsity, 55 with the JV team. And the returning players come back hungry.
After going 6-1 in the ’07 regular season, ESM, at home, got off to a terrible start in its first-round playoff game against New Hartford and took a 20-14 loss. DeParde said his team played its “worst 10 minutes of the season” in the first quarter and paid the price for it despite a spirited comeback.
On offense, the Spartans in 2008 will primarily need to make sure the big yardage numbers posted by departed senior running back Matt Cushing do not decrease.
To make up for it, ESM will rely on a deeper pool of backs. Dustin Moss, a first-rate wrestler (he won a gold medal at the Empire State Games in Binghamton earlier this summer), could fill either spot, while Jaquan Williams, Ken Cannon and Jacob Curtis are likely to take turns carrying the ball, too.
Also, DeParde needed to replace his quarterback. Ben Kreischer, a senior, has been handed the task of succeeding Matt Letcher. Already a starting linebacker, Kriescher, at 6-0 and 185 pounds, is equally capable of throwing deep downfield and taking off to run.
In an offense that leaned too much on Cushing next fall, the Spartans want to throw the ball more with Kreischer. That means returning wide receivers Zaid Jinadu and Sahar Nero should be more active, with Nick Cullen and Andy Heagle also expected to catch passes. Junior Andy Kirkpatrick becomes the full-time tight end after seeing both varsity and JV action in ’07.
Contrasting the changes in the backfield, the Spartans have three starting offensive linemen back. Dillon Canorro (220 pounds) works in the middle at center, while Eric Waltz (215 pounds) works at right guard and Andy Wowelko (220 pounds) starts at right tackle.
On the left side, new guard Ryan Gilkey and new tackle Vince Caraballo both check in at 220 pounds. This gives the Spartans a line without a big, wide presence, but with a balance of size and speed to overpower opposing pass rushes.
DeParde said he will use a 4-4 defensive alignment on about 75 percent of the Spartans’ plays. Eric Cushing (270 pounds), an All-League selection in ’07, makes for an imposing tackle, and he’s still just a junior. Gilkey also plays at tackle, while Waltz and Caraballo fill in as the new defensive ends.
Kreischer’s QB duties might mean less time at linebacker, so Josh Marko is poised to take over, if necessary. Alex Watkins returns to start inside, while Curtis and Cullen assume the other spots.
ESM’s defensive strength may lie in the secondary, where all three starters are back. Williams and Nero are situated at cornerback, with Heagle set at free safety.
If the Spartans want a fourth straight league title, a win Sept. 12 at Fulton might be mandatory. That would fit right into DeParde’s winning plans.
“Our goals are to improve on what we have done (in years past), he said. “We’re not building anymore, but maintaining our place at the top.”