Sep 16, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
To kicker Andy Heagle, the whole pressure-packed situation at the end of the East Syracuse-Minoa football team’s showdown with Fulton last Friday night was rather easy to deal with.
“It was just like every other field goal in practice,” he said. “I knew I was going to make it. It was already good in my mind.”
In this case, positive thoughts turned to positive action, in the form of a 26-yard field goal that soared high, deep — and straight enough to give the Spartans a 10-7 victory over the Red Raiders and the early favorite’s role in the Class A American division race.
ESM had just spent the last six minutes of regulation driving 67 yards, all on running plays, to Fulton’s nine-yard line, wearing down the Red Raiders as backs Dustin Moss and Jaquan Williams took turns carrying the ball.
Still, the game was bound for overtime unless Heagle came through, as the clock showed just 2.5 seconds on it when the teams lined up for what the Spartans hoped was the decisive kick.
A senior, Heagle has the benefit of being a three-year varsity player, one of the last links remaining from ESM’s 2006 Section III Class A title team.
“I was confident in him, and the players were so relaxed and confident (too),” said head coach Kevin DeParde. “I was more worried about the snap.”
The snap was just fine, and so was Heagle’s kick. One problem, though — Fulton had incurred an encroachment penalty, which meant they had to do it all over again at the four-yard line. Then came another penalty, a false start, which pushed it back to the nine again.
Counting the penalties and Fulton’s time-out attempt to freeze Heagle, the kicker had been out there for a while. But when it finally counted — good snap, no flags anywhere — Heagle ripped the 26-yarder through the uprights, and ESM had won.
Over the last three years, ESM and Fulton have taken turns atop the Class A American division. The Spartans claimed that league crown a year ago when it outlasted Fulton 34-33 in a hot, steamy classic at Spartan Stadium.
No heat or steam for the rematch, though, as a day-long rain soaked the grass in Fulton. And it quickly became apparent that neither team was getting close to 30 points here, either.
With its trademark run-oriented attack, Fulton struck the first blow with an 80-yard drive that consumed more than five minutes of the first-quarter clock. Any time a big gain was required, Ed Marsh or D.J. Ingham or quarterback Kyle Coe would get it.
On fourth-down-and-three from the Spartans’ 12-yard line, Coe went back to pass, then took off to the right sideline, using his speed and a dive into the end zone to put Fulton in front 7-0.
And it remained 7-0 for quite a while. Four different times in the first half, ESM would venture into Red Raider territory, and came away with zero points each time, mostly through fourth-down stops.
Two plays would begin to turn that tide, though. As the clock ran out before halftime, ESM quarterback Ben Kresicher threw a deep pass that Sharif Nero caught — four yards short of the end zone. Though it didn’t net points, it gave the Spartans a nice jolt of energy.
Then, early in the third quarter, staring at a third-down-and-15 on its own 15-yard line and a punt near its end zone, ESM gave it to Moss, who tore up the middle for 25 yards, a major shift in field position.
“That was the turning point,” said DeParder. “It settled us right down and put them (Fulton) on their heels.”
Again, the long Moss run didn’t lead to points, but it would soon get the ball back. In fact, ESM dominated on defense throughout the second half, holding Fulton without a first down. DeParde praised Eric Waltz, Eric Cushing and the defensive line for a vast improvement upon its opening-night effort against Oswego a week earlier.
Meanwhile, the Spartans put together a short march that, finally, ended in points when Williams went five yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Heagle’s extra point tied it, 7-7.
Williams and Moss both excelled behind a bruising ESM front line. Waltz, Andy Wowelko, Kyle Button, James Russo and Dillon Canorro didn’t blow away Fulton defenders, but they caused enough erosion on the line to give the Spartans a chance to control the clock, especially on that last drive to Heagle’s winning kick.
Emerging from Fulton with a 2-0 mark and the Class A American division lead, the Spartans go out of league play Friday for a visit to Watertown at 7 p.m. The Cyclones are 0-2, but gave long-time power Whitesboro a real scare in a 19-18 defeat last weekend.