Through the years, one major obstacle for the East Syracuse Minoa football team to Class A supremacy was Whitesboro, whose run of back-to-back sectional titles included beating the Spartans in the 2015 sectional final at the Carrier Dome.
So it was all the more satisfying for ESM to battle Whitesboro last Friday night at Spartan Stadium and, with some clutch plays, pull off a 27-26 victory over the Warriors that would have a big impact on the Class A playoff picture.
It began in a whirlwind fashion, Whitesboro driving to a four-yard David Camerota touchdown run, ESM countering with a quick march that Dan Garris finished off with a 15-yard dash to the end zone after a 23-yard run where Garris broke several tackles.
Even with a missed conversion, the Spartans only trailed 7-6 – for a matter of seconds. Ryan Walters fielded the ensuing kickoff at his own 16, got some blocks and ended up with an 84-yard TD return.
Unfazed by this, ESM quickly put together another drive, finished off by Ny’Zheir Jefferson’s one-yard scoring plunge in the first minute of the second quarter. And the exchange continued, Whitesboro making it 20-13 on Phil Gilberti’s nine-yard scoring run, the Spartans getting another big play from Farris as he went 56 yards for his second TD of the night. Garris would finish with 132 yards on 18 carries.
So they went to halftime with ESM trailing 20-19, where it remained throughout the third quarter as the defenses took over for a while. Whitesboro broke that drought 19 seconds into the fourth quarter with Gilberti’s second TD, a one-yard run.
What followed proved a big moment as Joe Copp blocked the extra-point, keeping the score 26-19. Energized by that play, the Spartans put together a long march, keyed by Jefferson’s 27-yard run on fourth-and-inches inside the 10.
Less than a minute later, Jefferson scored from three yards out. Now there was a decision – kick a tying extra point, or go for two points and the lead. ESM chose the latter, and Jefferson followed the blocks of ESM’s big, powerful offensive line into the end zone for the go-ahead points.
A lot of time remained, and Whitesboro would get its chance to win it. But the Spartans’ defense made the stops it needed, and Nolan Penoyer’s last-second interception sealed the victory. Penoyer also ran for 82 yards on 14 carries.
Earlier that same night, Jamesville-DeWItt was at Fulton. In a game far less dramatic than what took place at ESM, the Red Rams locked up its own post-season berth by jumping all over the Red Raiders and prevailing 38-7.
It was quite a rebound for J-D, who was shut out 33-0 at Whitesboro a week earlier. Turning a negative result into a positive, the Rams turned to Nick Brotzki, who threw a pair of first-quarter TD passes against Fulton.
After finding Jake Wright in the end zone from six yards out to give his team a 7-0 lead, Brotzki, from his own 10, would throw deep and find Pat Murad, who completed a 90-yard scoring play that proved quite discouraging to Fulton.
Adding to it, J-D’s defense scored when Mark Tuscano recovered a Red Raiders fumble and returned it for six points. Mike Anderson’s third successful extra point (he went five-for-five on the night on PATs) made it 21-0 going into halftime.
Anderson returned in the third quarter to kick a 24-yard field goal, this after the Rams earned its fifth touchdown on a scoring pass to Murad from J-D’s other quarterback, Adam Honis. Fulton did not score until the final period, with the game well out of reach.
In the Class A standings, J-D, at 4-1 (4-2 overall), is tied with ESM for second place behind unbeaten Indian River, whom the Red Rams host this Friday as ESM is supposed to take on Oswego, but that game is in question after the Buccaneers had to forfeit its game against Carthage last week due to low roster numbers.