Nov 11, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When any football team, in any classification, against any kind of opposition, wins 21 games in a row, it’s pretty special.
That is the context that must be applied to Bishop Ludden’s 24-19 defeat to Westmoreland in last Saturday’s Section III Class C final at the Carrier Dome, which put an end to the Gaelic Knights’ chances of repeating as both sectional and state champions.
Despite the defeat, head coach John Cosgrove said the team’s accomplishments during this long win streak would be impossible to forget.
“We’re terribly proud of these guys,” he said. “Most teams don’t get to do what we did.”
And Ludden’s fighting spirit was on display in this final. Without two key players (Steve Barrett and Rick Montgomery) lost to injuries, and down double digits in the fourth quarter, the Gaelic Knights showed its heart and determination by nearly pulling it out.
Ludden, behind 24-12, had the ball on its own 17-yard line with less than eight minutes left, and needed the sort of big play that had been missing for much of the afternoon against a quick and physical Westmoreland defense.
Omar Osbourne, bottled up much of the day, finally broke loose, going 66 yards to the Bulldogs’ 17-yard line. That set up John Rooney’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Osbourne with 4:21 left, cutting the Gaelic Knights’ deficit to five.
Westmoreland, despite having the ball at midfield, could not get the first downs needed to run out the clock, and when Ludden got a hand on the ensuing punt from T.J. Losowski, it took over on its own 43 with 2:02 to play.
As the clock ticked down under a minute, John Rooney threw a 25-yard pass to Osbourne that reached Westmoreland’s 35-yard line. The Gaelic Knights still had one time-out left, and Rooney certainly could spike the ball if he had to stop the clock.
Instead, Rooney took a shot at the end zone — but the pass floated, and Westmoreland defensive back Travis Rogers picked it off with 25 seconds left, clinching the Bulldogs’ second sectional title in three years.
“We put ourselves in position, but I made a couple of bad decisions,” said Rooney.
Perhaps so, but Ludden, in one afternoon, also went through the sort of bad fortune with injuries that had never taken place during the 21-game win streak.
Barely five minutes into the game, while pursuing a runner on the defensive side, Barrett, the team’s best lineman and an All-State selection in 2007, went down with a knee injury, the one player on the line the Gaelic Knights could not afford to lose.
A freshman, Shane Kelly, replaced Barrett, and at least on the offensive side Ludden didn’t suffer, getting 455 total yards to Westmoreland’s 241. But four turnovers would prove ruinous to the Gaelic Knights’ cause.
Right after Barrett left, the Bulldogs went up 7-0 on Dan Smith’s eight-yard TD pass to Losowski. Later in the period, Losowski connected on a 42-yard field goal, making it 10-0.
Rooney would answer in the second quarter. On his way to completing 14 of 26 passes for a career-beset 359 yards, the junior quarterback threw deep and found Montgomery all alone at midfield for an 82-yard touchdown play, cutting the deficit to 10-6. However, Montgomery would leave the game before halftime and, like Barrett, would not return.
Westmoreland produced its own big play when Smith hit Losowski and, with two great blocks, Losowski finished off a 64-yard TD play to make it 17-6. Another long Rooney pass, 33 yards to Osbourne, led to Devin White scoring on a two-yard run to make it 17-12 just 19 seconds before halftime.
Taking the second-half kickoff, Westmoreland immediately drove to another TD, as Smith’s seven-yard pass to Losowski built the margin to 24-12. Ludden twice would turn the ball over in the third quarter, thwarting comeback attempts and buying the Bulldogs time before the wild finish.
So as Westmoreland takes on Elmira-Notre Dame in Saturday’s regional round, Ludden ponders the end of a 9-1 season. Though players like Barrett, Montgomery, Nick Familo and Nate Stewart depart, Rooney, Osbourne, White, E.J. Beauford, Chris Davis, Conor Cosgrove and Mike Hogan all are set to be back in 2009, determined to put the Gaelic Knights back on top.