Aug 28, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As far as sequels go, Bishop Ludden football in 2008 was quite enjoyable — but still left the participants unsatisfied.
Trying to follow up its 2007 state Class C championship glory, the Gaelic Knights tore through an undefeated regular season and playoff wins over Adirondack and Cazenovia — only to get toppled by Westmoreland 24-19 in the sectional finals at the Carrier Dome.
In retrospect, Ludden’s run was quite remarkable. It only had 22 players on the varsity roster. Thus, according to head coach John Cosgrove, if anyone was missing for any reason, they could not do a normal 11-on-11 practice.
That isn’t a problem this season. All told, 34 players came out for the varsity team, and the numbers more than compensate for the modest total of four seniors lost to graduation.
By a general consensus, Ludden is one of the Class C championship favorites again. Part of that is due to the vast experience present in the Gaelic Knights’ backfield.
Senior John Rooney is entering his fourth varsity season, his second as Ludden’s quarterback. Rooney proved to be a worthy successor to Connor Sweeney in ’08, and Cosgrove said his roles in three sports (he plays point guard in basketball and is a standout baseball shortstop) makes him an ideal leader.
“John is used to running the show and has confidence in what he’s doing,” Cosgrove said. “And the other players feed off that confidence.”
Just as Rooney ably succeeded Sweeney, Omar Osbourne did the same as he followed Daquan Grobsmith at tailback (more than 1,400 yards), so the Gaelic Knights didn’t miss Grobsmith too much.
Unlike the small and elusive Grobsmith, Osbourne (6-2, 190 pounds) prefers to knock over defenders for extra yards, rather than run around them. It helps to have another returning starter, Devin White, at fullback to give Osbourne a breather.
When Rooney wants to throw on first or second down, he’ll likely look for a pair of senior receivers in Mark DeAngelis and E.J. Beauford. However, if short yardage is needed, the ball is going to big (6-3, 240 pounds) tight end Chris Davis, a junior who could exploit mismatches any time he runs downfield.
The larger roster will have a benefit for Ludden’s offensive line, which won’t be as thin, even with the graduation of Steve Barrett and Nate Stewart.
Mike Hogan (225 pounds) returns at tackle, with Nick Ferrante (185 pounds) at guard and Conor Cosgrove (195 pounds) at center. To replace Barrett and Stewart, Dennis Kelly and Shane Kelly could step in, though a larger rotation of players is possible.
The low numbers in ’08 meant that 10 players went both ways, a number John Cosgrove said he wants to whittle down to seven, at least.
Davis is one of those two-way stars, though, a force at defensive end who could get double-teamed, leaving Mike DePalma free to go after opposing quarterbacks. Hogan and Shane Kelly get the nods at defensive tackle in Ludden’s four-man front.
Stewart’s departure means that White moves from outside linebacker to the middle, while junior Aaron Maher and sophomore Mike Works (who started as a freshman) flank White.
It might be tough to pass on Ludden’s secondary, with Beauford and DeAngelis at the corners, plus Rooney and Osbourne at the safety spots. Cosgrove does not want to use his main offensive stars too much, though, so Gabe Grohol could spell either of them.
One of Ludden’s big concerns is a shortened regular season — just six games, four of them in a smaller Class C West division against Hannibal, Jordan-Elbridge, LaFayette/Fabius-Pompey and Tully.
“There’s no room for error,” Cosgrove said. “One bad game can cost you.”
Then again, the length of the season might not matter. Cosgrove recalled how, in 2006, a bitter defeat to Westmoreland in the playoffs set the stage for the state title a year later. The same thing happened in 2008 — and could lead to something magical this fall.
“The kids would be extremely disappointed without a championship,” Cosgrove said. “They’re a little motivated.”