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Big plays push Nottingham past ESM

Spartans take first regular-season loss since 2010

East Syracuse-Minoa running back Jeff McDuffie (21) takes off on a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Friday night's game against Nottingham. Despite this, the Spartans lost, 35-15, to the Bulldogs.

East Syracuse-Minoa running back Jeff McDuffie (21) takes off on a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Friday night's game against Nottingham. Despite this, the Spartans lost, 35-15, to the Bulldogs. Scott Schild

— East Syracuse-Minoa's hold on the Class A American football division is no longer secure.

Nottingham, fresh from the Class AA ranks, staked its claim to the top spot in the league, going to ESM Stadium Friday night and, using a series of timely big plays, beat the Spartans 35-15.

This marks the Spartans' first regular-season defeat since 2010. It went undefeated in 2011 on the way to the Section III Class A title, but this game proved that the road to a repeat will be a tougher one.

Four different times, ESM gave up touchdown plays of 35 or more yards, unable to contain a Bulldog attack that scored on offense, defense and special teams before it was done.

At first, the hosts took some encouragement from the fact that, in the first quarter, it kept Nottingham from scoring twice deep inside Spartan territory. The Bulldogs only converted on Derrick Gore's three-yard TD run, which tied the game at 7-7.

Right after ESM's initial stop, Jeff McDuffie, on his team's first offensive play from scrimmage, ran through a gaping hole on the right side 65 yards to the end zone.

But that 7-0 lead would be the only one the Spartans would enjoy all night. Nottingham tightened up its resistance, containing McDuffie and daring ESM to throw, which it did not do until the middle of the second quarter.

By that point, the Bulldogs had gone in front for good, 14-7, brought there by Gore, who right after an ESM punt began the parade of big plays when he went 58 yards for the go-ahead score.

Yet that was just the appetizer for what happened when Nottingham forced another ESM punt - a single play that all but sank the Spartans' chances.

Marty Clanton, who doubles as the Bulldogs' quarterback, took the punt on his own 35-yard line. Hemmed in by four members of the Spartans' coverage team, Clanton slipped past all of them, eluded two more tackles and ran from the left side to the right, not stopping until he had scored a 65-yard TD that made it 21-7, where it stood at halftime.

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