Poor Rico Brogna.

If you read the box scores of his Notre Dame football games and listen to his rhetoric, you'd think he was making excuses for his 0-4 Lancers. The shortage of players at a small school is not a first-year coach's problem.

You'd think ND is in shambles.

And yet, the Lancers football team has more reason for hope than Fairfield Ludlowe does.

Sure, the Falcons have more players and some talented ones, they have the backing of feeder programs and booster clubs. More people genuinely care whether Ludlowe wins or loses than do Notre Dame.

And yet, ND's football program is in better shape.

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The Lancers give effort, they have heart. These may be philosophical intangibles for loyalists trying to put a positive spin on a miserable season. And yet, the ND players "give it their all" on every snap.

Or at least they did against Stratford on Thursday.

As long as Brogna stays the course and remains at ND-- neither a sure bet to say the least-- his club will continue to improve. The Lancers have an all-SWC back in Nigel Beckford, who plays both ways and has for three years now.

They have just 28 players--including nine freshmen-- on their varsity roster. They don't have a lighted field or a placekicker, and yet, have been competitive of the first half of each game they've played. The simple exhaustion of two-way players competing on every snap, and the mistakes of youth, are the reasons why ND is 0-4 and not better.

"Those kids play hard," Stratford coach John Svatik said of Notre Dame. "If (Brogna) had eight more football players he would probably be sitting at 3-1 or 4-0 right now. He does a great job with those kids."

Yet, on the heels of the Falcons' second consecutive loss to Harding-- this time in a game where the Falcons did not even score a point on their home field-- the message is different.

"I have four starting offensive linemen hurt, there are three sophomores starting on the line," Ludlowe coach Matt McCloskey told our Tim Parry. "The game did not go the way we thought it would go."

Sure it didn't, no FCIAC team expects to lose to Harding.

Yet, this is the second straight year it has happened, and someone must be accountable for that. No one would ever mistake Ludlowe football for New Canaan-- at least not in the last 50 years-- but the town expects more than what the squad's put forth of late.

Parents, don't take this the wrong way: I'm not bashing your sons. I know they're trying with all their might. The Falcons have done some good things defensively. They've shown signs of life running the ball at times. Their offense does have injuries and they have played a tough schedule and they are young.

The fact is, good teams overcome adversity and get better. Bad teams make excuses.

"We're in a tough spot," Brogna said after his team's heartbreaking, 41-38 loss to Stratford on Thursday. "But low numbers, and we're very young...none of that is used as an excuse."

So which program is headed in the right direction? Ludlowe or Notre Dame? You decide, but I know who I'd pick in a head-to-head battle.