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."