SYRACUSE Tabbed as two of the favorites in the Class A American division, East Syracuse-Minoa and Jamesville-DeWitt's football team both turned in strong opening efforts in Friday night's Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome.
The Spartans unleashed the full range of Jeff McDuffie's talents in a 40-21 victory over Indian River, while the Red Rams pounded away at the ground against Section IV opponent Johnson City and prevailed 33-12.
As defending Section III Class A champions, ESM was dealing with an offensive transition as the 2012 season started. But just because Tyler Johnson, Bobby Campese and Buddy Frigon are gone doesn't mean that the Spartans would grow more cautious - not with McDuffie around, anyway.
Still, ESM had a shaky start against Indian River, whom it beat 52-29 in last year's sectional semifinal round. Sean Richardson, succeeding Johnson at quarterback, saw a poor pass returned by the Warriors' Kody Smith 48 yards for a touchdown during the first quarter.
So the Spartans trailed 7-0 when, in the second period, McDuffie really took over.
It began with back-to-back scoring drives, both of them capped by McDuffie finding the end zone on runs of 21 and seven yards, which zoomed ESM in front 13-7.
Just before halftime, the Spartans dug into the playbook and pulled out a gem. From his own 41-yard line, McDuffie took another handoff and suddenly threw deep - finding a wide-open Pat Bryant, who finished off a 59-yard touchdown that, combined with Richardson's two-point pass to Mike Gorney, expanded ESM's lead to 21-7 at the break.
An exchange of scores in the third quarter included Jose Sanchez's one-yard plunge, but it was McDuffie offering the decisive blows, starting with a 54-yard TD sprint that expanded the Spartans' margin to 34-13.
Then, in the fourth quarter, ESM was pinned on its own six-yard line. McDuffie shrugged that off, finding a hole and not stopping until he had reached the end zone 94 yards later.