Nov 13, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Everyone on the East Syracuse-Minoa football team burned for just one more victory, so it could play in its first-ever state Class A state semifinal – on its home turf, no less.
However, Maine-Endwell cared little for those dreams. The Section IV champions tripped up ESM in Saturday night’s Class A regional final at Binghamton Alumni Stadium, winning the battle of Spartan sides 21-7 to earn a shot at defending state champion Rochester Aquinas this Friday night.
As in so many important football contests, it boiled down to turnovers. ESM gave up the ball four times, and three of them led to all of M-E’s points.
It marked such a stark contrast to what had gone on in ESM’s season to this point. In recording 10 straight wins and cruising to a Section III Class A title, these Spartans had averaged nearly 45 points a game behind an attack that neatly balanced power running with big plays in the passing game.
None of this impressed M-E all that much. With a defense that had recorded four shutouts this fall, the host Spartans would give the visiting Spartans a heavy dose of reality – and, in turn, avenge last year’s defeat to Whitesboro in this same regional round.
Through a scoreless first quarter, ESM continued to face frustration. That boiled over late in the first quarter when the normally reliable Tyler Johnson saw his pass picked off by Luis Uceta.
From there, M-E’s sophomore quarterback, Kyle Gallagher, threw two passes to ESM’s 46. Early in the second period, Gallagher threw a swing pass to Uceta, who sped past the ESM defenders into the end zone.
Faced with a rare 7-0 deficit, ESM beat itself minutes later when Johnson, on his own 40, mishandled a snap and, amid the pile, M-E’ s Jake Haddock recovered the loose ball. A short drive followed, and Gallagher found Uceta again, this time on a four-yard touchdown pass where Uceta clung to the ball despite Jeff McDuffie’s hard hit in the end zone.
Just before halftime, ESM had another chance to get on the board, only to see Alec Wisiniewski step in and pick off Johnson’s pass at the goal line, a third turnover, and it remained 14-0 at the break.
Trying to put it away, M-E ate up the first seven minutes of the third quarter on a long drive. ESM stopped it, but it was still 14-0 going into the final period.
With 10:13 left, ESM gave up yet another fumble that M-E’s Darnell Woolfolk fell on at midfield. Gallagher and Justin Jacoby broke for long runs, setting up Jacoby’s 12-yard sprint to the end zone with 6:38 left, all but sealing it.
Finally, ESM converted when Johnson hit Buddy Frigon on a 55-yard pass to set up Johnson’s one-yard TD plunge, but it was too late.
Overall, Johnson was 10-for-21 for 190 yards, but M-E held ESM to a season-low 299 total yards. For its part, M-E pounded out 292 yards on the ground alone, Jacoby earning 119 yards as Uceta added 64 yards and Nick Sorrenti had 58 yards.
So instead of being a participant on Friday, ESM instead will merely host the state semifinals, proud of a 10-1 season that included a sectional title, but lamenting that it could not go a bit longer.
What’s more, the departures of Johnson, Frigon, Bobby Campese, Bob Crandall, Jordan Barton, Neil Hesse and Bob Ali will make it difficult for ESM to repeat in 2012, even as McDuffie, Mike Gorney, Kyle Hesse, Mike Hearn and Chris Szlamczynski make for a solid returning cast.
In those state semifinals at ESM, the Class D game at 5 p.m. Friday pits Tioga against Letchworth, followed by Maine-Endwell against Aquinas.
On Saturday at noon, Waverly plays Southwestern in Class C, with Chittenango (the only Section III team left) against Hornell at 3 p.m. in Class B and, to close it out, the Class AA semifinal at 6 p.m. between Binghamton and Orchard Park.