Oct 31, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All of the glory lay in front of the Bishop Ludden football team last Friday night as it pursued a trip to the Carrier Dome to play for the Section III Class C championship.
Here stood the Gaelic Knights, trailing undefeated Westmoreland on the rain-soaked turf at Utica Proctor High School, driving toward the goal line in the final minute of the game. A touchdown here, and Ludden would be in its first title game since winning it all in 2000.
But with two chances to put the Bulldogs away, the Gaelic Knights could not do so, instead turning it over and watching Westmoreland celebrate a 17-13 victory.
Whether it won or not, it was a valiant effort on Ludden’s part, as it nearly overcame a 17-0 halftime deficit in an attempt to repeat the excitement of its last-second victory over Adirondack in the opening round.
At first, it looked like the Bulldogs were too much for Ludden to cope with. Working out of the option, Westmoreland’s talented quarterback, Reuben Santiago, scored on a pair of short touchdown runs.
Meanwhile, the Gaelic Knights were going nowhere on offense. In fact, Westmoreland even pinned them for a safety late in the first quarter, and as it went to the break, the cause looked doomed.
Yet Ludden had made a habit out of playing exciting contests all season — and by the game’s final act, it had Westmoreland on the proverbial ropes.
Finally putting together a drive in the third quarter, the Gaelic Knights capped it off when quarterback Connor Sweeney scored on a one-yard plunge, making it 17-7.
Westmoreland could do little in the second half to contain Daquan Grobsmith. The speedy Ludden junior gained 135 of his game-high 178 yards in the second half, and his 10-yard TD run in the fourth quarter sliced the Bulldogs’ lead to four.
Again, the Gaelic Knights’ defense stiffened, forcing a punt. Taking over, Ludden used Sweeney’s 35-yard pass to George Eunice to reach the eight-yard line with under a minute to play.
On the very next snap, though, Ludden fumbled, and Westmoreland recovered. In the wet conditions, the Bulldogs hoped to close things out — but on the 25-yard line, the Bulldogs fumbled and the Gaelic Knights pounced on it.
Given an unexpected second chance to win it, Ludden had to throw for the end zone, a byproduct of a botched extra point after Grobsmith’s TD. Sweeney threw — and Santiago picked it off, sealing Westmoreland’s win.
Westmoreland (9-0) will meet Hannibal (9-0) in a battle of unbeaten teams in Saturday’s Class C final at the Carrier Dome. Ludden, meanwhile, finished at 6-3, knowing it could be great in 2007 if stars like Grobsmith, Eunice and Sweeney return.