A full realm of possible scenarios stood in front of the East Syracuse Minoa and Jamesville-DeWitt football teams heading into the last Friday night of their respective regular seasons.
Though the Spartans were assured of a Section III Class A playoff berth, how it did at Carthage would determine its seed – and with another spirited fourth-quarter comeback that produced a 35-28 victory over the Comets, ESM climbed up the standings.
That’s because, that same night, Indian River took its first loss of the season, falling to Whitesboro 41-20. Thus, ESM and IR both finished at 6-1 in the Class A division, though they never met head-to-head.
As it turned out, by getting that win at Carthage, ESM also assured that J-D would go to the sectional playoffs, too, though the Red Rams still went to Watertown and beat the Cyclones 36-26.
Up at Carthage, ESM at first appeared ready to blow out Carthage. Dan Garris scored on the Spartans’ opening drive with a nine-yard run, and Joe Copp’s long interception return moments later led to Ny’Zhier Jefferson’s two-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.
But the Comets didn’t flinch, tying the game 14-14 by the early part of the second quarter, only to have Garris hit Sam Jenkins on a 61-yard scoring pass within a matter of seconds before Carthage found the end zone again on a long kick return.
Just before halftime, the Comets went in front, 28-21, but from there ESM’s defense settled down and began a long series of stops that consumed the entire second half, with the Spartans patiently waiting for its own offense to get going again.
Once more, ESM’s conditioning paid off as the fresher side in the fourth quarter. Dominating the line of scrimmage, the Spartans put together a drive on the ground that Jefferson finished off, scoring from 10 yards out, the extra point tying it again at 28-28.
Then the defense forced a Carthage turnover at midfield, and the big Spartans line went to work again, plowing its way back to the Comets’ goal line before Jefferson’s two-yard TD plunge with 4:44 left broke the tie.
Another defensive stop allowed ESM to run out the clock and claim its fifth straight win, a lot of momentum going into the sectional playoffs, where it might get a chance to avenge its Sept. 15 defeat to J-D should both win in their respective semifinals – the Spartans against Whitesboro, the Red Rams against Indian River.
When J-D played at Watertown, it was far from easy. The Rams’ only points of the first quarter came when Mike Anderson intercepted a Cyclones pass and returned it 28 yards for a TD.
Tied 7-7 going to the second quarter, J-D got into trouble as Watertown, with Mikeal Tanner’s 55-yard punt return for a score and Ryan Gallo’s one-yard TD plunge, sprinted out in front.
However, Jake Wright capped a Rams drive with a one-yard scoring run of his own, so J-D only trailed 19-14 at halftime and then, in the third quarter, took charge.
Twice, the Rams pieced together patient drives that resulted in short TD runs – Wright scoring from four yards out, Anderson on a one-yard sneak – with Adam Honis throwing a two-point pass to Zach Goodson.
With a 29-19 lead, J-D still wasn’t safe, because Watertown cut the margin to three on Spencer Lavin’s three-yard TD run. But Anderson clinched it late with a 27-yard scoring dash as he finished with 135 yards on 18 carries, with Wright tacking on 101 yards on 20 carries.
As it turned out, Indian River did get the top seed in Class A, so it faces J-D in Friday’s sectional semifinal at Carthage as ESM meets Whitesboro at Chittenango High School, the winners advancing to the Nov. 3 sectional final at the Carrier Dome.
On Saturday, Bishop Grimes remained undefeated in eight-man football, roaring past Cooperstown 48-6 as, once again, quarterback Jordan Newman assumed a starring role for the Cobras.
In the first quarter, Grimes streaked to a 12-0 lead as Newman threw a 44-yard scoring pass to Payton Damuth and ran seven yards for another TD.
Newman’s 70-yard strike to T.J. Bradford and five-yard scoring pass to Nate Gay, along with two-point conversions by Gay and Tyler Wait, negated Cooperstown’s lone points as the margin grew to 28-6 by halftime.
Twice in the second half, Newman accounted for touchdowns of 76 yards, one of them a pass to Damuth, the other a long scramble from deep in his own end to the other goal line. Byam Mugushu added a 51-yard TD dash in the fourth quarter.