Sept 1-7. 2005
VOL 124 NO. 29
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Gaelic Knights look to capitalize on speed, youth in 2005
Speed and youth will define this edition of Bishop Ludden football according to head coach Jon Cosgrove.
“I would have to describe it [this team] as young but with a fair amount of speed,” said the coach, who has been with the program for 11 years.
From the lofty, Section III Class C Championship heights of 2000, the team continued to enjoy success at the Class C level, earning two more trips to the playoffs before a slight pop in enrollment pushed the program into Class B.
The program has had some rough seasons since increased enrollment pushed Ludden up into Class B. The cut-off point for Class B is 400 students and Ludden is right at the edge with 407 between grades 9 and 11. Some of the teams the Gaelic Knights compete against such as Oneida and Homer draw from enrollments approaching 650 students.
Last season, Ludden enjoyed its share of highlights, including an 18-15 win over neighborhood rival Westhill, which won its second Section III Class B Championship in as many years. But ultimately, the Knights settled for a 3-6 record and a second year out of the playoffs.
“The biggest problem is depth as far as first, second, third-teamers,” Cosgrove said. “We get a good first team and then we really struggle for back-ups.”
This season, Cosgrove hopes to begin turning the corner with a very young team that includes a sophomore quarterback and a completely rebuilt offensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, the story for the Knights, who primarily two-way their players, is much the same with quick defensive backs forming the unit’s strongest element.
“We’ve got a little bit of depth at the d-backs position so that’s going to be our strength right now,” Cosgrove said.
The focal point in Ludden’s traditional I offense will be fullback with a deep corps of players all capable of staffing the position.
“Fullback is probably our strong spot,” Cosgrove said, noting that, at 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, EJ Windom provides a punishing presence. Windom can work in tandem with Tyrone Dixon, who is “ not as big, but a heck of a player,” according to the coach.
“That’s kind of where our depth is right now,” the coach said.
Under center, the Knights will rely on sophomore Connor Sweeney. Cosgrove believes that Sweeney’s arm will enable Ludden to open up its attack with more balance coming from its single-back offense.
“He [Sweeney] did pretty good on the JV last year. He has a strong arm and decent speed,” the coach said. “We think Connor can throw the ball pretty well so we’re looking to throw a little bit more this year and have a little bit more of a balanced attack.”
Someone will need to step up to fill the sizeable cleats of departed all-league running back Keith Mitchell, the last of a long line of standout running backs for Ludden from that family.
The current arsenal of tailbacks includes Solvay transfer Daquan Grobsmith and several underclassmen.
“We’ve got some speed. They’re young, but they move well,” Cosgrove said.
With five seniors departed from the unit, the offensive line will need to be rebuilt from scratch. In the preseason, the coaching staff had circled seniors John Cannon and Dom Crisalli to man the outside tackle positions. Three guards were under consideration including Mark McKenzie, John Rao and Steve Barrett. The center will likely be Patrick Rosanio.
The primary target in Ludden’s passing attack has traditionally been the tight end and at 6-3, 205 pounds Kerry King appears to be the likely starter.
“In our offense, the tight ends have usually been the leading receivers,” Cosgrove said. “We’re more of a possession type thing. We haven’t had the speed the last few years, so it’s mostly been the underneath patterns to the tight end across the middle. We’ve found that most people in high school football don’t cover the tight end. He’s supposed to be hit at the line of scrimmage and teams seldom do that and he gets lost to the ‘d-backs [defensive backs]. There’ll be guys trying to run deep and he just kind of finds the opening.”
When the Knights do look downfield, Sweeney will have swift receivers George Eunice and John Neri as likely targets.
“[Eunice has] great speed; his nickname is speedy,” Cosgrove said. “John Neri, who is going to be a senior, has been a pleasant surprise and his summer workouts have gone real well. We’ve got targets, we’ve got pretty good hands so we’re hoping to balance out the attack a little bit more.”
The Knights will stick to their traditional 4-3 defense with the backs giving the unit its respectability.
“On the corners we’ve got guys like Grobsmith and Eunice and returning players like Pat Terry and Neri,” Cosgrove said. “Safeties will be the QB’s, [backup] Kerry King and [starter] Connor Sweeney.”
Windom is the school’s top returning defensive lineman with some interest coming his way from NCAA Division 1AA programs such as Fordham. Complementing Windom will likely be Barrett, Rao and Cannon along the defensive front four.
After graduating four of their top five linebackers, the Knights will need younger players to emerge in those positions.
“We have some young guys moving up, but they’re moving around well and they’re tackling well right now so…time will tell,” Cosgrove said.
Senior captain Dixon is likely the unit’s top linebacker. Jon Lyons, King and Chad Hammond were also considerations for starting linebacker spots.
“We’re just seeing who meshes well as far as inside-outside goes,” Cosgrove said.
The Knights will get a chance to develop and improve early on with non-league games against Holland Patent (Saturday, Sept. 3) and Altmar-Parish-Williamstown (Sunday, Sept. 11 at the Carrier Dome).
“We start out with two non-league games and we want to get some maturity and experience in those games so that by the time we hit the league schedule we’re competitive,” Cosgrove said. “That’s what we want to be. We want to be competitive and we want to prove that we can get a playoff berth in the Class B’s.”
Their key games include a contest at neighboring Westhill (Sept. 23), defending Section III Class B Tournament champion; and a second at defending Class B League Champion Solvay (Oct. 14).
Contests such as those against nearby Solvay and Westhill have improved the competitiveness of the Class B field, according to Cosgrove.
“One of the things that’s helped make our league competitive is that they’re so close geographically that there are some great rivalry games,” he said. “You’ve got Skaneateles/Marcellus, you’ve got Westhill/Solvay, you’ve got us/Westhill so you’ve got great rivalry games and I think that’s helped build the sport at the schools. You get more kids out because there are better games.”
Cosgrove believes Marcellus could be a darkhorse with 23 seniors returning to the squad for the 2005 campaign.
“That’s a lot of maturity, lots of strength that you have to deal with,” Cosgrove said. Ludden hosts the Mustangs Friday, Sept. 30.
“It’s going to be a big year this year. We’re going to try to stay in games, figure out game plans, compete with some of those teams,” Cosgrove said.