Throughout the Bishop Ludden football team's magical 2007 season, Nate Stewart had been an unsung hero, a solid linebacker contributing to a defense that made the big stops when they were needed.
If Stewart was anonymous, though, those days ended the moment he jumped up and made the biggest deflection in the Gaelic Knights' gridiron history.
When the 5-9, 190-pound junior got a piece of Travis Fenstermaker's extra point in the overtime portion of last Saturday's state Class C semifinal against LeRoy, he gave the Gaelic Knights a 34-33 victory that touched off a wild celebration for everyone wearing green at Rochester's Paetec Park.
With the win, Ludden advanced to its first-ever state championship game, to be played Sunday at 12 noon in the Carrier Dome against defending champion Dobbs Ferry.
Regardless of what happens there, though, the Gaelic Knights have already provided its fans with enough thrills and drama to suffice -- and the game with LeRoy might have been the most exciting chapter yet.
This game had it all -- numerous momentum shifts, big plays from both sides, late-game gambles that backfired, a controversial end to regulation, and a tense overtime that climaxed in Stewart's timely block.
Going in, the main story was how the Gaelic Knights, with its speed and big-play ability, would try and counter the power running game the Oatkan Knights used to go 11-0 and reach the state semifinals.
Right away, though, LeRoy changed the tone. Fenstermaker, who also is the Oatkan Knights' quarterback, threw deep in the first quarter and found Andrew Alexander, a 66-yard touchdown play that put Ludden behind 7-0 -- this after the Gaelic Knights could not punch it in on its opening drive despite marching inside LeRoy's five-yard line.
But that didn't last long. Just 51 seconds later, the Gaelic Knights tied it when quarterback Connor Sweeney ran 19 yards into the end zone. When Fenstermaker tried to pass again on LeRoy's next possession, Daquan Grobsmith picked it off, leading to a go-ahead score as Sweeney hit Wendall Williams on 25-yard strike.