Chittenango True, it didn't count for anything other than maintaining a perfect mark in 2012, but there was no way the Chittenango football team was going to take Friday's game against East Syracuse-Minoa lightly.
Not on Homecoming night. Not with neighborhood bragging rights on the line. Not with the added spotlight of television, thanks to Time Warner Cable. And not with the extra attraction of a showdown between two reigning Section III champions.
So it only figured that senior Devin Phelps put together another major star turn, rushing for 218 yards, including a crucial long touchdown run in the fourth quarter, as the Bears held off the Spartans 27-26.
Despite an early 12-point lead, Chittenango had to rally in the latter stages. Then it had to hang on as ESM missed a two-point chance to go ahead and had another opportunity in the waning seconds before Josh Cretaro secured the game-clinching interception.
Of course, it all goes back to Phelps, whose deft handling of the Bears' offense helped them overcome a quick 7-0 deficit created when ESM drove down the field and Jose Sanchez scored on a three-yard run.
By the end of the opening period, Chittenango was up 13-7. Phelps capped off one drive with a three-yard TD run, and Kyle Zimmer sealed the other drive by scoring from two yards out.
Zimmer returned in the second quarter to break free for a 46-yard scoring run, which made it 19-7. From there, though, the Bears cooled off for a while, giving the Spartans ample time to climb back.
And ESM did just that. K'Hari Flagg's one-yard TD plunge made it 19-13 at the half, and in the third quarter the Spartans again moved down the field, moving to Chittenango's three-yard line before Nick Lobello scored.
Trailing for the first time this season going to the fourth quarter, Phelps didn't get rattled. Instead, early in the fourth quarter he worked out of the option at his own 38-yard line and, with terrific blocking, broke free for a 62-yard sprint to the end zone.