Friday marked the commencement of Class A American division play, with the East Syracuse-Minoa and Jamesville-DeWitt football teams both involved in thrillers.
The Spartans needed a late push at Fulton to register a 23-20 victory over the Red Raiders, while the Red Rams battled Cortland into the fourth quarter, but lost to the Purple Tigers 36-26.
ESM traveled to Fulton's brand-new artificial turf field trying to avenge last year's defeat to the Red Raiders, who had given up 106 points in season-opening losses to Indian River and Whitesboro.
Once again, though, ESM and Fulton would produce a tense classic. Quarterback Tyler Johnson's two-yard plunge put the Spartans ahead 6-0 in the first quarter, but the Red Raiders answered with its own drive as Bryan Benton scored from nine yards out and Max Fobes made the extra point.
Both defenses settled down in the second quarter. The Spartans notched the only scoring drive, Jeff McDuffie atoning for a missed extra point by belting a 33-yard field goal, which put ESM up 9-7 at the break.
They would go back and forth in the second half. Fulton went up 13-9 in the third period as Brett Williams found Fobes on a 13-yard scoring strike, but the Spartans' deficit didn't last long.
Johnson used his passing (he was 13-for-26 for 161 yards) to set up his own one-yard TD sneak early in the fourth quarter as ESM led 16-14, only to have Williams break loose for a 49-yard TD run in response.
Now trailing 20-16, the Spartans patiently put together one more scoring drive as Jordan Barton continued to build his numbers. Overall, Barton had 120 yards on 21 carries, and his one-yard plunge into the end zone proved to be the winning touchdown.
Earlier that afternoon, J-D provided plenty of entertainment and points in its home opener against Cortland, yet could not sustain its good work in the second half.