Aug 29, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A big reason why the East Syracuse-Minoa football team has kept itself among the top Section III Class A programs in the last decade is its ability to absorb the inevitable departure of star players and find new ones to shine in their place.
The 2014 season may put a test to those abilities, but more than enough pieces are still in place to make another championship push.
From a 7-2 side that fell in a wild, 43-36 battle to eventual sectional champion Carthage in last fall’s sectional semifinals, the Spartans saw three first-team All-Central New York selections depart.
That included quarterback Sean Richardson, holder of most of ESM’s single-season and career passing marks, plus top wide receiver Pat Bryant and lineman Chris Szlamczynski.
Richardson’s successor under center is Brandon Breen, a three-sport star (he also plays baseball and basketball) who didn’t play football in 2013. Head coach Kevin DeParde said that Breen’s athleticism gives him a chance to scramble out of the pocket than Richardson did.
Making the transition from Richardson to Breen easier is the fact that the Spartans can count on three seniors – RiQuelle Othman, Fred Johnson and K’Hari Flagg – to share the running duties. All of them could start, and with pass-catching abilities, they can take short tosses from Breen and turn them into big plays.
“Each of them could be the top back,” said DeParde. “This gives us variety on offense. We don’t have to stretch the field, which is nice.”
And Bryant might not be missed much, either. Three more seniors – Eyan Underwood, Kollin Diedrickson and DeShaun Gorman – return at wide receiver, while Nick Pullano and Jeremy Perry split tight-end duties. Diedrickson is confident, saying that, with a better variety of skill players, the Spartans can be just as potent through the air.
Despite Szlamczynski’s departure, every other starting offensive lineman returns, with only center Shane Krawec a new face. Guards Matt Grosso and Scott Irons, along with tackles Martin Campbell and Eric Donlick, give ESM a lot of stability and experience up front.
Given that he has 42 players on his varsity roster (numbers that have remained steady despite a smaller enrollment at the high school), DeParde wants to make sure that he doesn’t have too many of them go both ways.
Thus, the work of the linemen in ESM’s 3-4 defense is vital, and anchoring it is 6-foot-2, 330-pound tackle Parker Harris, who is flanked by Campbell and Joe Mobre at the end spots. At linebacker, Perry and Johnson are on the outside, with Flagg and Andy Messinger inside.
Not that many local teams use a 3-4, usually preferring four or five linemen. DeParde says this is a more effective defense against spread formations, allowing for more speed on the outside to deal with multiple receivers.
It also helps to have a seasoned secondary, as the Spartans possess with Underwood and Gorman returning at the cornerback spots and Kevin Morris joining Diedrickson at safety.
Following Friday’s opener against Section IV opponent Vestal in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome, the Spartans will face last year’s other sectional finalist, Indian River, on Sept. 12, the prelude to the annual neighborhood showdown with Jamesville-DeWitt, played this time at Spartan Stadium.
Each of the Spartans that are back is hungry to get started again, said DeParde, because the semifinal loss to Carthage left a bad taste. He added that, to give itself the best chance to get back to the Carrier Dome, ESM needs to develop a dependable group of reserves behind its strong starting units, so that they’re ready in case the key players get hurt.
“If we build our depth and toughness, we’ll be fine,” he said. “If we are short in those area, it’s going to be a long season.”
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