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.