In the clean and vast surroundings of the Carrier Dome nearly 12 months ago, the East Syracuse-Minoa football team conquered Whitesboro and, with it, captured the Section III Class A championship.
But in Friday night's rematch, played in the mud and grass of Marcy, it was the Warriors' turn, as big runs by Matt Felitto in the fourth quarter propelled his side past the Spartans 34-12 in the opening round of the Class A playoffs.
Each side entered the game knowing that a battle with 8-0 Jamesville-DeWitt loomed in the semifinal round after the Red Rams smashed Watertown 49-0 Thursday night. ESM had played the Red Rams close in their Sept. 14 encounter, so the prospect was promising.
In fact, it was the Spartans seizing a 6-0 lead in the first quarter as Jeff McDuffie, on a field soaked by rain before the game, trudged 20 yards to the end zone.
Whitesboro countered with Felitto, who began his big night by racing 33 yards for a touchdown. Bodhi Forbes' two-point pass to Johnny Jweid pushed the Warriors in front, 8-6.
After Felitto scored a second time on a one-yard plunge in the second quarter, McDuffie struck again, returning a Whitesboro punt 65 yards for six points. The two-point try failed, so ESM trailed, 14-12, going to the break.
All through the second half, the muddy conditions, combined with a fast and aggressive Whitesboro defense, shut down anything that ESM tried to establish.
Meanwhile, the Warriors started to get away. Connor Critelli's 31-yard TD run was the only score for either team in the third quarter, but it was up to Felitto to finish matters.
From his own 45-yard line early in the final period, Felitto found a gap and took off, 55 yards to the the other goal line, that made it 26-12, and minutes later Felitto had his fourth TD with a 51-yard sprint.
Whitesboro will now face J-D in one Class A semifinal, with Indian River meeting Nottingham in the other semifinal as ESM fell to 4-4 on the season.