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.