Bedford Bulldogs’ regular season winning streak continues into the playoffs
But the high-powered Bulldogs'; perfect season has contained its share of difficulties.
';We';ve had an amazing season -; our first season in Division I -; and also we';ve found it tough as well,'; head coach Stuart Pepper said. ';It';s been a physically demanding sort of schedule. We';ve picked up injuries and all sorts of aches and pains, basically, but I think it';s pulled this squad together.';
Captains Erik Martel and Casey Schehl have been beaten up, Pepper said, but other players have stepped to the challenge of filling their vacancies.
';Daniel Smushkin is a sophomore who has really stretched out in the last four or five games,'; said Pepper. ';Jimmy Heald is another guy, another player that has stepped up when Martel and Schehl have been injured.';
Pepper said Martel and Schehl have been extremely impressive all season. They set a positive example of how to play soccer and how to be good competitors, he said, and players like Smushkin and Heald have taken notice.
';They';ve been unbelievable captains,'; Pepper said. ';Both of them have carried injuries and fought through them.';
Another impactful player for the Bulldogs has been Bill Beubd. He anchors the Bedford defense, which never allowed more than one goal in a game all season. The Bulldogs continued that trend of staunch defensive play in the postseason, winning their games against Manchester Memorial 2-0 and Timberlane 2-1.
';Bill Neubd has just been an immense defender in the back,'; Pepper said. ';He';s been a strong reason why we';re so hard to score against.';
Bedford has to manage two more wins to complete its undefeated season. No. 4-seed Manchester Central is up next on Thursday, Nov. 1. If the Bulldogs get to the finals, they play the winner of No. 2 Londonderry and No. 3 Hanover. The tournament';s final playoff games are to be played at Southern New Hampshire University.
';It';s been a tough end of season,'; Pepper said. ';At the same time we';re in the final four.';
Although they came away with wins in their regular season games against all three teams, each victory was by a single goal. The Bulldogs beat Hanover and Londonderry in back-to-back games mid-way through the season, both by 1-0 scores. Bedford closed out its regular season with a 2-1 win over Manchester Central on Oct. 20.
';It';s just neck-and-neck,'; Pepper said. ';We';ve beaten every team, but at the same time, they';ve all been close.';
Bedford';s unbeaten streak hasn';t gone unnoticed nationwide. The Bulldogs were recently ranked the No. 3 high school boys soccer team in New England and No. 23 in the country by the National Coaches Association.
';For a little, small school in New Hampshire, to actually be recognized on a skill level and a name level is just very unreal,'; Pepper said. ';We';re very humbled.';