Nov 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Few times in the history of the Section III football championships has anyone come back from a 20-point deficit to prevail.
Add Bishop Ludden to that small group — and give them a banner, too.
The Gaelic Knights showed that it was much more than a talented group of players by erasing a 20-0 deficit in last Saturday’s Class C title game at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium and beating Mount Markham 41-30.
“Sports reveals character, and they had the character to come back and win this,” said head coach John Cosgrove.
This was the second time Ludden has won a sectional championship. But unlike that 2000 team (also coached by Cosgrove) that crushed Herkimer 40-3 for the title, these Gaelic Knights had to fight serious adversity to knock out a great opponent in Mount Markham.
“We’ve got a tough team,” said senior running back Daquan Grobsmith. “It’s heart, that’s all I have to say.”
It also helped Ludden to have Grobsmith and Wendall Williams on its side — especially Williams, who made so many of the big plays in the Gaelic Knights’ rally.
For two weeks, Williams had gone relatively quiet as Grobsmith all but carried Ludden to playoff wins over Herkimer and Adirondack, especially the 35-28 semifinal against the Wildcats where Grobsmith had 369 yards and all five of his team’s touchdowns.
Williams said the muddy field conditions against Herkimer, plus the constant rain that fell in the Adirondack game, limited his ability to make big plays.
The weather was far better for the final — but Ludden’s early attack of nerves and sloppy play nearly ended the fun against Mount Markham before it began.
Three times in the first half, Ludden players coughed up the ball, from a bad punt snap to two fumbles. Every time, those mistakes led to Mustang touchdowns, producing that 20-0 deficit Cosgrove said he did not panic, adding that, if his team got at least one score before halftime, things could turn around.
Actually, the Gaelic Knights fared better. Right after Luke Phillips scored Mount Markham’s third TD, Ludden drove 66 yards, mostly through Grobsmith’s running. He went 20 yards for one first down, then took off 25 yards to the end zone, and Ludden was on the board.
Then came an even bigger blow — a 97-yard drive. The key play was Connor Sweeney hitting John Rooney on a 39-yard catch-and-run that put the Gaelic Knights into Mustang territory. Out of time-outs following a sack, Sweeney hurried and, on fourth down, found Grobsmith alone in the end zone from 16 yards out with eight seconds left in the half.
Ludden then promptly fumbled the second-half kickoff, allowing Mount Markham to regain control. Phillips went 22 yards to the end zone to make it 27-13, but again the Gaelic Knights did not panic.
Williams now entered the picture in a big way. He hooked up with Sweeney on a 43-yard pass to set up Grobsmith’s four-yard TD run, and after Kyle Maxson hit a 32-yard field goal to make it 30-19, Williams really took over.
Late in the third period, Ludden was on the Mustangs’ 25 when Sweeney threw a swing pass to Williams, who broke a tackle and took off down the left sideline until he found the end zone. Sweeney’s two-point run made it 30-27.
As the Gaelic Knights’ defense tightened up on Phillips and forced punts, Williams kept coming. He made a diving catch on a long Sweeney pass at the three-yard line, leading to Sweeney’s one-yard TD plunge that, at last, put the Gaelic Knights in front 34-30.
Mount Markham tried to rally, but Williams shut that off by intercepting a fourth-down pass and returning it inside Mustang territory. From there, Grobsmith did the rest, going 26 yards for the clinching touchdown with 4:40 to play.
Grobsmith’s yardage numbers dipped from previous weeks, to 156, but it hardly mattered, since Williams had four catches for 107 yards, plus his defensive contributions.
Ludden will face Section IV champion Unatego Saturday at 11 a.m. at Binghamton’s Alumni Stadium in the Class C regional final.