Call Fairfield Ludlowe football one of the FCIAC's best storylines in 2012.
In a blog post last week, I called the Falcons the "story of the year," which was met with some resistance. Trinity Catholic's resurgence or Weston/Joel Barlow's emergence were called better by some.
Yet, I can't shake Ludlowe as the story of the year because:
a.) The Falcons' started 0-3 and 1-5.
b.) Their coach then abruptly announced his resignation effective season's end
c.) They won their final four games, including Thursday's 31-13 rout of Warde.
It's as simple as that. Some have kidded that if McCloskey had announced his resignation earlier, the Falcons could've been a state playoff team.
I'm not that cynical. Ludlowe basically beat the teams it was supposed to and lost to the teams it should have. That's typically how 5-5 seasons go.
Yet, McCloskey is a big part of Ludlowe's end-of-season run. The embattled coach has endured a roller-coaster tenure at Ludlowe. He started with terrific highs: an opening-night upset win over Norwalk in 2008 and two straight wins over Warde-- including the 24-14 win that capped the only winning season in Fairfield Ludlowe history. He was 10-10 after two years, and it appeared Ludlowe was headed in the right direction.
Then the downward spiral started. Two straight losses to Harding, the 2-24 stretch that spanned three seasons, including this year's 1-5 start that notoriously left Ludlowe's football program as one of the state's laughingstocks.
Still, McCloskey had a handle on his team from day one. He decreed, on Sept. 1, that this team reminded him of the 2009 club. I scoffed thinking his positivity was overly-optimstic, but he turned out to be right when the Falcons claimed those final four wins and that .500 record.
The Falcons obviously had some talent, although the FCIAC is down. But 5-5 is still a successful campaign for Ludlowe when you consider the depths from which they climbed.
When McCloskey announced he'd be out after this year, the season could have gone two ways: either the Falcons galvanize and play for their lame-duck coach or they pack it in, play out the stretch and settle for 1-9.
Ludlowe chose the former. Good for the Falcons -- especially their seniors.
"The team was completely different from last season," Ludlowe quarterback and MVP of the Thanksgiving game Matt White said. "The way we ended this season was incredible, and this group of guys is amazing."
This coaching decision could wind up being a key one, as the Falcons return some important pieces in 2013. White is one of them and he looked comfortable on Thursday -- especially running the ball. Jimmy Gasper, Christian Ghiorzi and about 25 rising sophomores-- many of whom have played in the Pop Warner Super Bowl -- all return to the program.
Whoever takes over the program will still have to tip his cap to McCloskey. He took his team through that roller coaster, but the squad is trending upwards.
And all that cements Ludlowe's "story of the year" status in my book.