Nov 13, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
It’s now official — the Bishop Ludden football team is venturing into territory its has never gone before, and enjoying every step of the adventure.
For the first time, the Gaelic Knights are going to the state Class C semifinals, reaching that point with a hard-fought 30-21 victory over Section IV champion Unatego in last Saturday’s regional final at Binghamton’s Alumni Stadium.
Big plays, timely defensive stops and clean living (no penalties, as compared to Unatego’s 10 infractions for 65 yards) all contributed to the historic win. The only other time Ludden won a Section III Class C title, in 2000, it lost to Walton in regional play.
Just as in its sectional championship win over Mount Markham on Nov. 3, Ludden had to rally from an early deficit — though it was nowhere near the 20-point margin the Gaelic Knights needed to overcome against the Mustangs.
Unatego jumped in front, 7-0, late in the first quarter when Alex Hendrickson scored from 24 yards out. To that point, Ludden was going through yet another sluggish start, but not paying a steep price for it.
But the TD woke the Gaelic Knights up, and in answered by going 66 yards in seven plays. James Brathwaite and Daquan Grobsmith covered most of that ground with runs of 28 and 25 yards, respectively, before quarterback Connor Sweeney scored on a one-yard run.
They stayed tied, 7-7, until the late stages of the half. Starting on his own 20, Sweeney moved the Gaelic Knights 80 yards in nine plays. From Unatego’s 37, Sweeney drew in the defense, then threw deep, where John Rooney was all alone to catch the go-ahead TD.
It would be a while before Ludden’s offense returned to the field. Unatego closed out the half by going 64 yards in less than two minutes, Hendrickson running the final eight yards for his second TD of the game with 25 seconds to play. Only a missed extra point kept the Gaelic Knights ahead 14-13 going into the break.
Once out of the locker room, Unatego took the second-half kickoff and plowed down the field, 13 plays covering 75 yards. Hendrickson gained most of that on the ground, this on a day where he hurt Ludden’s defense by carrying the ball 26 times for 251 yards, the most it has allowed to any back all season.
The game’s critical sequence followed. With a chance to go in front, Unatego went for it on fourth down inside Ludden’s 10-yard line, and Hendrickson got shut down by the Gaelic Knights defense inches short of a first-down-and-goal.
Just four plays later, Grobsmith delivered an even greater blow, running on a sweep to the right, finding the blocks and taking off, 78 yards to the other end zone to make it 21-13. For the day, Grobsmith had 187 yards on 19 carries, nearly half of them from this single big run.
Unatego wouldn’t fold, tying it 21-21 with a quick drive that led to Kyle Ritchko scoring on an 11-yard run and Kyle Palmer’s two-point pass to Brandon McKee.
Again, a Ludden big play was required. Again, Sweeney provided it, going deep from Unatego’s 46-yard line and finding Wendall Williams for the touchdown that put the Gaelic Knights ahead for good late in the third quarter. Sweeney completed just seven of his 17 passes, but they went for 215 yards, an average of more than 30 yards per completion.
Ludden needed one more push — and got it, going 81 yards on a 17-play march that took up most of the fourth quarter. Though stopped inside the five-yard line the Gaelic Knights sealed it when Ben Searle booted a 21-yard field goal.
Now in this new territory of the state semifinals, Ludden faces a steep and rugged mountain in Saturday’s state semifinal when it plays undefeated LeRoy in Saturday’s state Class C semifinal at 12 noon at Rochester’s Paetec Park.
LeRoy, from the Section V ranks, is undefeated at 11-0, has past experience in state playoff games, and comes off a 47-20 rout over Cleveland Hill (Section VI) in its regional round. The winner plays Dobbs Ferry or Cambridge in the state title game at the Carrier Dome on Nov. 25 at 12 noon.