It was almost a tale of two seasons for Bishop Luers in 2021.
The first eight weeks of the season brought plenty of excitement for Knights Nation – an 8-0 start, close wins over Carroll, Homestead and Bishop Dwenger and a No. 1 ranking in Class 2A.
But on the cusp of wrapping up the Summit Athletic Conference championship in Week 9, Bishop Luers fell to Snider by double digits, ending up with a share of the Victory Bell with the Panthers and Carroll.
Three weeks later, the Knights were beaten by Eastside in sectional play for the second time in three years.
On the one hand, Bishop Luers won 10 games for the first time since 2014.
On the other, opportunities were lost late in the season that could have made the 2021 campaign even more special.
With a wealth of production gone from a year ago, Coach Kyle Lindsay is looking to keep Bishop Luers towards the pointy end of the SAC. But there are questions abound, particularly offensively.
Carson Clark and his record-setting numbers behind center are gone, as well as offensive playmakers Sir Hale, Brody Glenn, Aden Dennis, Antwian Lake and Jayden Hill. Three starting linemen are gone as well.
Replacing Clark is Charlie Stanski, a senior who has backed up Clark in the last few seasons. Stanski saw limited action last year (7-of-13 for 98 yards) and struggled with decision making at times. But the offseason has seen Stanski build his confidence and prove he can make all the throws. Junior Kohen McKenzie is also in the mix if the need arises.
The skill positions have plenty of potential, despite the losses to graduation. R.J. Hogue (30 carries, 225 yards, six TDs) and Gio Jimenez (18-164-2) could be the most dynamic 1-2 running back punch in the area.
At wideout, seniors Brayden McInturf (17 receptions, 221 yards) and Nick Thompson (7-119-1) are back. While Thompson, a Toledo commit, makes most of his impact on defense and special teams, he has the potential to be deadly on the outside. Junior Cadell Wallace will be asked to take on a more commanding role, as well as junior Jaylen White and sophomore TJ Smith.
With Hill having transferred to Carroll, Bishop Luers must find a tight end capable of being that safety net for the QB. Senior Johnny Bloom will get the initial assignment, with Ben Kiracofe, a sophomore, also eyed to contribute.
Where things get sticky for the Knights is up front. Seniors Jaden and Jordan Sykes have the tackle spots locked down, but a bevy of underclassmen are slotted in at guard and center. Freshman Zack Wall could be the Week 1 starter at center, while sophomores Michael Brough, Kam Walters and Paul Cotter are all in the mix at guard.
“We have a talented crop of running backs that can churn out drives or create big plays if our young offensive line develops ahead of schedule,” said Lindsay.
The defense is in a better spot with eight returning starters, headlined by a dangerous secondary held down by Thompson and fellow senior Jackson McCullough. Juniors Jimenez, Isaac Zay, Smith and Wallace will also be utilized as DBs.
Da’Von Doughty transferred to North Side, leaving Bishop Luers without one of its most experienced linebackers. Mickey Daring is back after being an All-SAC Honorable Mention selection in 2021. Seniors Kolin Jolas and Qwenton Roach are also players to know at the second level.
The defensive front has potential, with two-year starter RJ Hogue back at D-end and hybrid d-end/outside linebacker Sam Koehl also having starting experience. Jordan Sykes will see time up front on defense as well, with Wes Javins and Damiun Jackson also in the rotation.
Roel Pineda will handle kicking and punting duties. He hit all three of his field goal attempts and 51-of-59 PATs last season.
The Knights will be dangerous in the return game with the likes of Thompson (32.5 yard kick return average) and Jimenez.
Knight fans should expect an effort to return to some old-school football,” Lindsay said. “A strong defense, an offensive reliant on running and controlling the ball and solid special teams play.”
It was great to see Bishop Luers make a run last year and share the SAC championship. It’s always refreshing to be reminded that a Class 2A team can mix it up and be successful against higher-class squads.
While some may look at this ranking as a bit high, there is still plenty to like about this team. It still has athletes all over the field, guys who can turn a mundane gain into a huge, game-breaking play.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
When it comes to questions marks, arguably the two biggest positions on the field are at the top – quarterback and offensive line. Bishop Luers is going to be counting on youth at one (OL) and inexperience at the other (QB).
How fast do both position groups mature? Can the offensive front open holes for the running backs and keep the quarterback upright to make plays?
These are legit concerns.
Week 1 vs. Carroll
Yes, we could go with the ol’ ‘the only game that matters is the next one’ mantra, but we are calling this game out for a different reason.
For one, Jayden Hill returns to his old school. That should be fun.
But otherwise, this will be a major test for both positions we mentioned above – quarterback and offensive line. Carroll has perhaps the best defense in the entire area, much less the SAC. How does QB and OL handle it?
How those groups perform in that game will go a long way to deciding how good of a season the Knights have.
Nick Thompson, senior, Bishop Luers
While Thompson did not see a significant amount of action on offense a season ago, do not expect that to be the case in 2022.
Thompson will be the most talented player on his team on both sides of the football. He not only needs to play like one, and dominate accordingly, he also needs to lead like one.
Bishop Luers lacks a significant amount of playing time at key positions. Thompson needs to be the guy that elevates others around him and help facilitate the growth that Coach Lindsay is hoping to see out of his underclassmen.
PREVIOUSLY IN THE COUNTDOWN