Manlius Antoine Montgomery’s control over the Canastota kickoff team was near-hypnotic.
The Bishop Ludden senior playmaker stood poised on the left side of the 20-yard line as Xavier Johnson’s squib kick tumbled toward him.
Canastota had just cut Ludden's lead, once 21 points, to seven with 5:48 left in regulation of Friday night's Section III Class C-1 semifinal at Fayetteville-Manlius, and the Gaelic Knights' offense had not scored since the of the first quarter.
But that didn’t matter. Montgomery caught the ball waist high with Canastota’s Josh Halsey bearing down on him. Stepping to his left, Halsey dived through the departed space.
Montgomery then juked to his right, and a slew of players on the Raiders kickoff team went with him, opening up a lane on the left sideline. Montgomery dashed up it, cut inside near midfield and was off to the races. Later, he said he’d never seen a defender — or in this case many defenders — fall for a move that badly.
“I waited for my blockers, saw the holes and I ran through them,” Montgomery said, smiling ear-to-ear.
Just like he did on his 68-yard kick return on the first play of the game. And just like he did on a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
With 406 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, Montgomery was Ludden’s saving grace as the Gaelic Knights beat top-seeded Canastota 33-20. With the victory, Ludden advances to the C-1 championship game against Skaneateles.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Montgomery finished with 180 return yards (not including the 92 on the interception return), 104 receiving yards and another 30 rushing yards, while senior linebacker John Maher led the Gaelic Knights with 10 tackles.
“We got the win and we fought and did everything we had to do to win,” Ludden head coach Mike Rogers said. “I knew it was going to be a 40-minute game and those guys are tough, but we’re a physical team. A school our size playing up at this level, we’re real proud of them.”