Aug 22, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Whatever the Bishop Ludden football team wants to accomplish in the 2012 season, it must happen quickly – and to a small degree, the Gaelic Knights are a reason for the urgency.
Ludden had a solid 2011 regular season, going 5-2. Yet it missed the Section III Class C playoffs because only the top two teams from the Class C West division advanced to the post-season. A 41-34 loss to Tully, the eventual second-place finisher, proved to be the difference.
Skaneateles, of course, won the league title before allegations of recruiting led Section III to oust them from the playoffs. By then, though, it was too late for Ludden to benefit.
All told, four teams that went 5-2 missed the playoffs. Not wanting that to happen again, a majority of Section III Class C coaches voted to expand the tournament from eight to 16 teams.
By doing so, the regular season is shortened by a week, to six games, adding to the importance of every league contest – and it just so happens that Ludden’s Friday-night opener is at Skaneateles, a game sure to draw attentive curiosity.
To Gaelic Knights head coach Mike Rogers, though, every league game is important, not just the battle with the Lakers. And Ludden, in 2012, has enough on hand to contend once more.
By far, the biggest challenge was to replace Matt Rogers, a two-year starter, at quarterback. Zack Harding, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior, draws the assignment, moving over from wide receiver to run the offense this fall.
“He’s got a good command of the things we want to do,” said Mike Rogers.
A big part of Harding’s task is to find Antoine Montgomery whenever possible. The senior wideout caught 28 passes for 542 yards a season ago, an average of more than 19 yards per catch. With good hands and lots of speed, Montgomery, who will also return kicks, can score any time he touches the ball.
To replace the departed Mike Works (11 touchdowns) at running back, Rogers is turning to Corey Wilkinson, who started at tight end last fall. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Wilkinson has both speed and power, the latter displayed as a standout shot-put and discus thrower in indoor and outdoor track for the combined Westhill/Bishop Ludden squad.
Ben Rath and Malik Stenson will line up at split end, while Mike Peciorello and Conlan McGuire take over at tight end.
Tackle Chris Matchuk, who missed most of 2011 due to injury, has healed and now anchors an experienced offensive line. Both guards, Jon Matchuk and Alex Trunfio, are back, as is center Collin Cacchione, while Mike Crisalli moves from tight end to tackle.
Off a 4-3 defensive front, Wilkinson could have a big impact at end, flanked by Trunfio, Cacchione and the Matchuk brothers. There’s also options for Wilkinson to play linebacker alongside Crisall, Anthony Pecoriello and John Maher.
Amid a deep and talented secondary, Tim Rooney joins Harding at cornerback, with Rath and Stenson also part of the rotation. Montgomery roams from the safety spot.
Rogers said that it’s important his team avoids injuries, given that it has a 28-man roster and has multiple players going both ways. That requires versatility, as evidenced by the position moves on both offense and defense.
“We’ve got a good core of players,” said Rogers. “We’re going to hang in there.”
Following the Skaneateles opener, Ludden plays three of four league games (Hannibal, Institute of Technology Central, Jordan-Elbridge) at home, with the only interruption a Sept. 21 visit to Tully, which might swing the Gaelic Knights toward the top of the league – or in the other direction.