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.