Ludden surprised everyone with run to state title

More than a year ago, the Bishop Ludden football team left the field after dropping a narrow 17-13 decision to Westmoreland in the Section III Class C semifinal with a resolve to go at least one step further in 2007.

To say that the Gaelic Knights met that goal would be a gigantic understatement.

Ludden's achievement of a state Class C championship is remarkable in many different ways, not the least of which is the fact that, prior to this fall, the school's football history was nothing much to brag about.

Since the modern Section III playoff format began in 1979, the Gaelic Knights had exactly one sectional title to its credit, achieved in 2000 when Keith Mitchell was setting school records running the ball.

Otherwise, football was something that occupied time in the fall until winter, when the real show -- basketball -- would begin in the raucous gymnasium in Geddes. A state championship in 1994 would attest to that constant hoops fever.

John Cosgrove coached that title team in 2000, and stuck around through the Gaelic Knights' brief venture into Class B, where it could not quite reach the level of neighbors like Westhill or Solvay.

By the time Ludden returned to Class C in the middle of this decade, though, the foundation was in place for a magical ride to the top. Mostly, it involved three seniors -- Daquan Grobsmith, Connor Sweeney and Wendall Williams.

After seeing two older brothers (Stanley and Michael) star at Solvay, Grobsmith transferred to Ludden in 2005 and quickly became the teams' primary running back. Though just 5-7 and 145 pounds, Grobsmith had the speed of a sprinter and the toughness to play both ways at full throttle.

At the same time Grobsmith arrived, Sweeney took over at quarterback. In three years as a starter, Sweeney blossomed into a poised and confident leader, and having Williams to throw to only made things easier. With the departure of George Eunice to West Genesee, Williams needed to assume an even greater role -- which he did, quite well.

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