East Syracuse An offensive explosion in the second half helped push the East Syracuse-Minoa football team past the Nottingham Bulldogs for the outright Class A American division regular-season title.
Led by senior quarterback Sean Richardson and wide receiver Pat Bryant, the Spartans cruised to a 31-12 victory over the Bulldogs Friday night and will have a top seed in the Section III playoffs that start next weekend.
“It’s always nice getting [the title] outright,” ESM head coach Kevin DeParde said. “But more importantly it’s more about getting the home game next week.”
But it wasn’t the smoothest of performances for the entire game. In the first quarter, Richardson was rushed continuously by the Bulldog defense and was unable to put up any points until well into the second period.
“They showed us more pressure than anyone else has this year,” DeParde said. “We never really got into sync.”
But the Spartans' defense was doing just fine. The lone score of the first quarter was a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by Nick Cesarini to put the Spartans up 8-0.
Penalties and bad plays forced both teams to keep punting the ball, with neither team scoring again until just before halftime.
After Kollin Diedrickson picked off Nottingham quarterback Najaliek Williams for ESM’s second interception, the Spartans took over at the Nottingham four-yard line with 2:10 remaining in the half.
Due to a serious injury to a Nottingham player during the interception return that required an ambulance and stretcher, officials decided to take the 20-minute halftime break early.
After the break, the Spartans were unwilling to punch the ball into the end zone, opting for a 20-yard Diedrickson field goal to take an 11-0 lead.
Turnovers doomed Nottingham again on its subsequent possession. A botched snap on a punt set up ESM with great field possession at the Bulldogs' 31. Then Richardson hit Bryant on an eight-yard fade route on the right side of the end zone for the team’s first offensive touchdown of the game.