Aug 24, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
On the third weekend of November, all the attention of high school football fans in Upstate New York will zero in on East Syracuse-Minoa, which will play host to the New York State semifinals, the last step until the championship games in the Carrier Dome a week later.
And who knows? The hosts might have its own bit of history in mind, too.
ESM returns 19 of 22 starters from a 2010 squad that, despite its youth, went 6-3 and was second to Cortland in the Class A American division before losing in the first round of the Section III playoffs to Indian River.
Head coach Kevin DeParde acknowledges the vast amount of potential, but said the Spartans can’t afford any kind of complacency.
“We look good on paper,” he said. “The expectations are high, and we’ve got to perform to that (high) level every day. They (the players) can’t get full of themselves.”
Given that, since its sectional title in 2006, ESM, despite excellent regular-season marks, has only made it out of the first round of the playoffs once in four years, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Among the 10 starters back on offense is 6-2, 180-pound senior quarterback Tyler Johnson, who threw for more than 1,000 yards as a junior, but also showed he could take off by gaining more than 400 yards on the ground.
DeParde said that Johnson’s all-around ability, especially with his arm, allows ESM to use more passing plays than in seasons past, which keeps defenses from loading up players at the line of scrimmage.
Johnson will often be looking for fellow senior Bobby Campese, an All-Central New York and All-State selection at wide receiver in 2010. If defenders smother Campese, another senior, Buddy Frigon, will have lots of chances, as will tight end Mike Gorney.
It’s not that the Spartans forgot how to run the ball. Between Johnson and running backs Jeff McDuffie and Bob Crandall, ESM gained better than 1,500 yards on the ground last fall, offering a near-perfect balance to the aerial attack.
And all of this is done behind a big, veteran offensive line. Tackles Bob Ali (290 pounds) and Michael Hearn (305 pounds) carry plenty of heft by themselves, but throw in guards Ryan Mantor (240 pounds) and Neil Hesse (210 pounds) and the new center, sophomore Chris Szlamczynski (235 pounds), and Johnson could get lots of time to operate in whichever way he pleases.
Much like Whitesboro, which has won the last two sectional Class A titles, ESM operates with a quick, light defensive front. Thus, the nose guard, Jaquell Cotton, is just 185 pounds, with Ikiey Coker (205 pounds) and Jon Britton (210 pounds) flanking him at tackle.
Two others, Steve Loder and Matt McClary, will work on both the line and at outside linebacker, depending on the play. Barton and Sam Pascarella give the Spartans a pair of proven inside linebackers.
Just like Campese on the offensive side, McDuffie is coming off garnering All-State honors at safety. DeParde calls him a “prototype” because of his speed, jumping ability and a tendency to hit hard.
D.J. Jackson, who was at ESM until the end of his freshman season before moving to North Carolina for two years, is back as a senior to take the other safety spot, while Frigon and Ryan Wiggins work at cornerback.
There are just 10 teams in Class A this fall, with Oswego moved up to AA and Camden and Mexico sent down to Class B, though Fowler returns. Still, DeParde said most of them, including Cortland, Fulton, Whitesboro, Indian River and New Hartford, can contend for sectional honors.
The spotlight hits ESM right away as, on Sept. 2, it plays West Seneca West (Section VI) in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome. After that, it’s on to the local ranks, to see if the Spartans can, come November, be more than just gracious hosts for the biggest games of the fall.