Aug 30, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Entering a new decade, the East Syracuse-Minoa football team wants to retain all the successful elements that meshed together late in the previous decade, minus one annoying detail.
The Spartans won its first-ever Section III Class A title in 2006, then spent the next three years trading the Class A American division title with Fulton while remaining a title contender.
Yet ESM kept running into those other Spartans from New Hartford in the Class A playoffs – and kept getting beat, including a 38-14 decision in last year’s semifinal round.
Maybe it’s not a coincidence that ESM plays New Hartford again on Sept. 10, part of a tough early slate that includes Friday night’s trip to the Carrier Dome to play Camden in the Kickoff Classic and a Sept. 17 trip to Fulton. The Spartans don’t play at home until Sept. 24, against Jamesville-DeWitt.
Adding to head coach Kevin DeParde’s challenge is the fact that Dustin Moss, who ran for a single-season school-record 1,965 yards in ’09, has moved on. At the same time, though, a strong core of returning core players (all underclassmen) should keep ESM potent.
“Offensively, we’re pretty confident,” DeParde said. “If we can come together, we can put up some points.”
Quarterback Tyler Johnson is one of many juniors that started as a sophomore. DeParde said he is “the whole package” as a field general, equally capable of throwing deep or running if the occasion calls for it.
Expect more passing, as ESM returns its entire group of receivers. That includes wideouts Bobby Campese and Emile Frigon, plus tight end Connor Haynes – all of whom, like Johnson, are juniors that started as 10th-graders. Mike Gorney backs up Haynes at tight end.
ESM has brought up a highly-touted sophomore, Jeff McDuffie, and given him the tall task of succeeding Moss at tailback, with another newcomer, Jacquell Cotton, sliding in at fullback.
In its entire offense, the Spartans have one senior starter – Matt Vasiloff, a 215-pound center. He anchors a front line that has a fair amount of varsity experience, with Bob Ali (245 pounds) returning at tackle and Neil Hesse back at guard. Mike Hearn, an imposing 290-pound sophomore, moves in at tackle as Ryan Mantor takes the other guard spot.
The Spartans are one of the few teams in Section III to employ a 3-4 defensive alignment. DeParde said that’s because of the surplus of defensive backs and linebackers on the roster. Still, ESM is fairly set up front, with Ali and Hesse at the end spots and two others, Andy Carey and Troy McMullen, battling for time at nose tackle.
At linebacker, Bob Crandall, who started late in ’09, teams up with Mantor inside as Andy Reichert and another promising sophomore, Steve Loder, flank them outside.
ESM feels comfortable enough with its linebackers to move Haynes back to safety, where McDuffie is expected to make an instant impact. Both cornerbacks, Frignon and Brendan O’Donnell, are returning starters, so passing on the Spartans might prove a tall task.
Aside from the maturity only gained through age and game experience, DeParde said his team’s biggest concern lies with the progress of interior lines on both sides of the ball. And with that tough starting slate (Camden in the Dome, New Hartford, at Fulton), ESM will have little trouble finding out what else needs to be worked on if its recent run of success is to continue.
ESM Stadium will play host to the football regional playoffs on the weekend of Nov. 12-13. However, should the Spartans win the sectional title, their game will be moved to another venue so that the site can remain neutral.
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