Aug 31, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When it comes to the East Syracuse-Minoa football team, it’s tempting to just skip through the regular season to see how it ends.
Under head coach Kevin DeParde’s direction, the Spartans have become a Section III Class A power, consistently at the top of the standings. It even broke through and won a sectional championship in 2006.
Each of the last two years, though, have been the same — strong regular seasons, followed by first-round playoff exits, at home, at the expense of New Hartford, the latter of which led to a 2008 sectional title on New Hartford’s part.
So on the surface, the only question for 2009 would involve how the Spartans would handle things in the playoffs this time around — but DeParde knows better.
“The last thing on our mind is trying to win in the playoffs,” DeParde said. “We’re just starting from square one (each fall), trying to be competitive and fight for a league title first.”
The success at ESM (a “winning culture”, as DeParde puts it) has led to record numbers of participation for all the football teams, including an increased devotion to work in the weight room and other off-season programs.
Now the Spartans have an all-weather artificial turf surface for its home field, which will debut Sept. 18 against Fulton. By then, ESM will have a better idea of how its young roster will handle this season’s rigors.
One certainty is Dustin Moss, who returns at tailback. All Moss did in ’08 was run for 1,550 yards and become the centerpiece of the Spartans’ offense. At 5-8 and 175 pounds, Moss is all muscle, willing to take the punishment from what promises to be a lot of defensive attention.
“He’s a strong kid and a complete team player,” DeParde said. “Teams will tack the line to stop him, for sure, but that’s nothing new for us. We’ve dealt with it for years.”
Moss, plus returning fullback Zach Smith to pave the way, gives ESM time to ease in its new quarterback, Tyler Johnson. Just a sophomore, Johnson (6-0, 170 pounds) will run as much as he throws the ball, a common trait among past Spartan quarterbacks.
Among Johnson’s targets at wide receiver is returning starter Sharif Nero and deep threat Ken Cannon, plus Bobby Campese, who could take over at quarterback should Johnson get hurt. Jake Curtis returns to start at tight end.
Tackle Brandon Roberts (260 pounds) and guard Kyle Button (200 pounds) gives ESM a pair of linemen with starting experience. Matt Vasiloff (215 pounds) takes over at center, with sophomore Bob Ali (230 pounds) moving in at guard and Naeal Abu-Speitan (210 pounds) the new tackle.
On ESM’s four-man defensive front, Eric Cushing (275 pounds) and Charles Moore (280 pounds) eat up a lot of space at tackle, which should give ends like Jamie Landry (220 pounds) and Andy Carey (220 pounds) a chance to power past opposing linemen and force pressure on the quarterback.
Curtis is one of ESM’s true two-way threats, as he returns at inside linebacker, helped by 195-pound senior Connor Fitzpatrick. With outside linebackers like C.J. Meech and sophomore Bob Crandall, the Spartans could have seven or eight men in the front that are defensive specialists, rare in the local high school ranks.
ESM is also set in the secondary, with Nero as the lone safety working between cornerbacks like Cannon (difficult to beat him deep) and Nick Capparelli.
The Spartans get four games on its new turf, a Friday opener against Mexico in the Carrier Dome (part of the Kickoff Classic) and a trip across town to Jamesville-DeWitt. The only long road trip goes to Cortland, and that’s just the second game of the season on Sept. 11.
Many signs — a good set of returning skill players, high participation, good fitness, a favorable schedule — point to another winning campaign. But DeParde said a lot of work remains before anyone can get too giddy.
“We’re awful young this year,” DeParde said. “And we have to understand that we will make some mistakes early, but not to let that dictate who we will be. As we get game experience, we’ll get better. As long as we can trust the process, we’ll be fine.”