Nov 02, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Dreams that football teams from East Syracuse-Minoa and Jamesville-DeWitt carried of, perhaps, meeting up in the Carrier Dome for the Section III Class A championship were thwarted one step short of that goal.
The Spartans dropped a 43-36 classic to Carthage in Friday night’s Class A semifinal at Fulton Stadium, while in the other semifinal the Red Rams fell to Indian River for the second time this season in a 31-14 decision at Watertown High School.
Of the two, ESM had the closer call, leading five different times against Carthage, only to see the Comets rally every time and finally take the lead on quarterback Bailey Wilkinson’s 20-yard run, which erased the Spartans’ slim 36-35 edge.
Long before that, though, the game’s tone was set on the first three possessions, all of which ended in touchdowns. Jose Sanchez scored on a 12-yard run to put ESM up 7-0, but Wilkinson answered for the Comets, finding the end zone from 15 yards out, before Sanchez caught a screen pass from Richardson that he turned into a 28-yard TD.
Ahead 14-7 going to the second period, the Spartans continued to find it difficult to contain Wilkinson, whose second TD, a 22-yard run, made it 14-14, though ESM went back in front with Richardson’s second scoring pass of the night, 15 yards to Eyan Underwood.
Thanks to a pair of interceptions – one by Andy Messinger, the other by Kollin Diedrickson – ESM was able to overcome a series of costly penalties and keep that 21-14 lead to halftime, though Diedrickson’s 34-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the second quarter went wide.
Taking the second-half kickoff, Carthage moved to ESM’s 10-yard line, from where Josh Capers found the end zone, the extra point tying it again at 21-21.
Sanchez countered with his third TD, this one a 22-yard run set up by Richardson’s 44-yard pass to Dashaun Gorman, and this time the Spartans went for two, faking the PAT as Richardson instead found Pat Bryant in the end zone as ESM grabbed a 29-21 lead.
Again, Carthage offered a response, moving to the Spartans’ one before Wilkinson scored and then made his own two-point conversion.
So they went to the final period 29-29, and after Richardson got intercepted by Malik Little, the Comets went in front for the first time with Capers scoring on a 17-yard run with 7:05 left. He carried the ball 20 times on the night, earning 192 yards.
The conversion was missed, and the Spartans, trailing for the first time all night, nearly got back even immediately, but Sanchez, on a long run, was stripped of the ball near the goal line, a possible touchdown turning into a Carthage touchback.
ESM’s defense held and forced a short punt. Again the Spartans roared down the field, and this time cashed in when Sanchez scored his fourth TD on a 17-yard run with 2:26 left and Diedrickson added the PAT. Sanchez, overall, gained a career-best 210 yards on 22 carries.
One more time, though, Carthage plowed through ESM’s defenses. In just two plays, including a 43-yard screen pass to Capers, the Comets moved to the Spartans’ 20 before Wilkinson, who rushed for 236 yards on 31 carries, broke loose for the go-ahead TD with a minute to play and throwing a two-point pass to Capers.
Still, that minute was enough time for ESM to turn a long kick return into a desperate final march. It reached the Comets’ 25, where on the game’s final play Richardson, who was 15-for-26 for 242 yards to that point, threw to the end zone, but Carthage batted it away to end a remarkable contest.
It proved far more conventional at Watertown, where J-D, who reached the sectional finals a year ago, was looking for a return trip to the Dome – but getting it would require beating an Indian River team that toppled the Red Rams 23-7 back on Sept. 12.
The rematch was closer for a while. A short J-D punt into a fierce wind in the first quarter led to IR’s initial points, Dustin Sharrit going the final eight yards for the TD.
But the Rams would keep the Warriors off the board the rest of the half, and put together an impressive 13-play, 65-yard march capped off by Ernest Shaw’s two-yard scoring run. Anthony DiGiovanni’s extra point tied it, 7-7, where it stood at halftime.
IR moved ahead for good, though, with a pair of third-quarter scoring drives. Runs of 30 yards (by Jakese Crockett) and 15 yards (by Sharrit) led to Denzel Barnes’ one-yard TD plunge. And Elijah Franklin intercepted Nate Shapiro on J-D’s first offensive play of the second half, leading to Barnes scoring again on a 16-yard run.
The Rams pulled back within 21-14 after Deondre Grier fumbled deep in its own end and J-D turned it into points on Shapiro’s one-yard TD run. But Shapiro himself fumbled later in the period, leading to Zach LaForest-Hurd’s 35-yard field goal that put J-D’s deficit back at double digits.
Down 24-14 going to the fourth quarter, J-D never got close again, held to just 145 yards of total offense. Barnes picked off Shapiro to lead to the game’s last TD, a run by Sharrit.
The Rams finished its season with 5-3, and two of the losses came to Indian River. ESM, meanwhile, ended a 7-2 campaign that included a Class A American division title, but not the bigger prize it wanted.