With the majority of its production returning from a Class 2A state runner-up team a year ago, Bishop Luers is getting a ton of respect and attention heading into the 2021 campaign.
Expectations are high as for the Knights, who are hoping to compete for their first SAC title since 2014.
But the hill will be tough to climb as the lone 2A school in a conference that has added a pair of solid 6A programs since Bishop Luers last had the Victory Bell.
“We have a lot of experience with 18 starters back from the state title game,” Bishop Luers coach Kyle Lindsay said. “We have speed, athleticism and depth at all of the skill positions.”
That may be an understatement. From record-setting quarterback Carson Clark to do-everything athlete Sir Hale and big-time burner Brody Glenn, the Knights have talent in bunches all over the field.
Clark broke out in a big way last season. Over his final eight games of the season, the senior threw for 29 touchdowns and one interception. He threw for two or more touchdowns in 10 games, including a 303-yard, three-touchdown effort in the state finals against Western Boone.
Most of his Clark’s weaponry returns. Seven of his top eight receivers are back, led by Glenn (1,265 yards, 16 touchdowns), Krashaun Menson (559 yards, nine TDs) and Antwian Lake (333 yards, TD). Add in the likes of Hale, Nick Thompson, Eli Gernhardt and Jayden Hill and the Knights are not lacking for offensive firepower.
In the backfield, Hale will be the primary back, with junior R.J. Hogue expected to break out after showing signs of life last year.
Two-way lineman Ben Rectanus is an underrated loss for Bishop Luers, as well as Foster Johnson up front. Seniors George Buday and Nelson Knapke will be looked upon to anchor the offensive front. Sophomore Tristian Woodcox should quickly work his way into the rotation on both sides of the line.
It is many of the same names on defense as five of the top six tacklers return. Menson and fellow senior Mason Daring (126 tackles, 11 TFL) are back in the secondary and at linebacker, respectively. Middle linebacker Evan Linker is set to anchor the middle of the defense. Junior Davon Doughty is also as player to watch on both sides of the ball.
The Knights need to replace a pair of safeties in Johnny Sewell and Ramon Anderson who combined for over 130 tackles. Look for junior Johnny McCullough to be in the rotation in the secondary, as well as sophomore Gio Jimenez. Junior linebackers Kolin Jolas, a transfer from Homestead, and junior Qwenton Roach will be a pair of new faces set to see significant time.
The biggest new impact player may be senior Aden Dennis. The Huntington North transfer was arguably the best player for the Vikings a year ago and will line up at defensive end for the Knights as well as see action on offense.
Bishop Luers is definitely not hurting for talent, that much is clear. No team in the SAC brings back the amount of production that the Knights do, particularly offensively.
The momentum and experience gained from last year’s deep postseason run should bode well in the SAC. But it is in the Class 2A playoffs where Bishop Luers will truly shine. With all due respect to teams like Andrean and WeBo, Bishop Luers has the most talent in the entire state in 2A.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
As referenced above, Bishop Luers has not really been a threat to win the SAC since 2014. Will that change in 2021? While it is clear to see that the Knights have what it takes to match up in the league at the skill spots, the offensive and defensive lines do not have a lot of depth. The grind of a nine-week regular season, all against schools with higher enrollment, could wear down Bishop Luers.
A key injury here or there may be all it takes to derail what could be a special season for Coach Lindsay’s squad.
That’s right, to be announced. If Bishop Luers is in the mix to win the SAC towards the end of the season, then Snider in Week 9 is the answer.
But we are thinking big picture with Bishop Luers, and the goal is a state championship. The Knights have not won a title in 12 years, the longest such streak since the program went 25 years from its inaugural season in 1960 to the capture of its first state crown in 1985.
So “TBA” refers to the big games that the Knights will have in the postseason. The SAC is merely a tune-up for this squad that has much higher aspirations than a conference crown.
George Buday, senior, offensive/defensive lineman
A lineman as the critical player? You bet. Bishop Luers is laden with playmakers, so losing a few for any extended period of time probably doesn’t completely derail things (apart from Clark going down).
But with the fragility of the depth up front, the Knights can ill afford to lose many big bodies in the trenches. Buday, a 2020 2A all-state selection, is expected to be the leader in the huddle for his linemates. Without Rectanus, all eyes now go to Buday. If he delivers and helps forge a strong unit up front that stays healthy, it bodes well for the team late in the season.