SYRACUSE A bit older, and a bit wiser, the Bishop Ludden football team will need that maturity and experience within a Class C West division that only seems to get tougher.
Among other things, Skaneateles and Hannibal have joined the league after stints in Class B. Add to it the improvements at Jordan-Elbridge, Tully and LaFayette/Fabius-Pompey, and the fast-emerging Syracuse Institute of Technology Central, and nothing for the Gaelic Knights in 2011 is a given.
In fact, Ludden head coach Mike Rogers, beginning his second season at the helm after John Cosgrove went to ITC, said that anyone in the league could reach the playoffs.
But Rogers has reason to like his own side's chances. Playing with 18 freshmen and sophomores in 2010, the Gaelic Knights still went 5-2 in the regular season and reached the Section III Class C playoffs before, without star tight end Chris Davis (concussion), it fell to Ilion 52-6.
Now Ludden has, of the 28 players on its roster, 18 juniors and seniors. Seven starters are back on both sides of the ball. Leading that group is Matt Rogers, who returns for his senior season at quarterback.
At 5-11 and 160 pounds, Matt Rogers is not the most physically imposing passer. But throwing to the likes of Davis and Antoin Montgomery a season ago, he averaged nearly 20 yards per completion. That ability to create big plays, combined with intelligence (he's one of the top students in the school), make him an ideal leader.
"He keeps plays alive, and knows what he's doing," said John Rogers.
Montgomery returns as Ludden's primary receiver, a deep threat that could get a touchdown any time he touches the ball. Zach Harding has emerged at split end, and while Davis will be difficult to replace at tight end, Corey Wilkinson and Anthony Pecoriello will give it a try.