Bedford heads to state title game after last-second victory
The Bulldogs got the ball with 43 seconds left, two timeouts and the length of the field in front of them. Having just relinquished their lead to Keene, Bedford was seconds away from being removed of its chance at a state title.
Down 15-14, the Bedford offense worked its way down to the 1-yard line with under a second to play. A catch by Nick Vailas got the Bulldogs within feet of the goal line, and head coach Kurt Hines brought his team together for a timeout.
'We were going to kick the field goal, and then I went out there just to talk to the guys and remind them of some things they need to do,' Hines said. 'Every single one of them just looked at me with near tears in their eyes and said, 'Coach, just give us a shot.' So, I put it in their hands and they made it happen.'
Quarterback James Caparell punched the ball into the endzone on a sneak, ensuring the Bulldogs would get their chance against Winnacunnet for the Division II championship.
'I didn't think it was going to come down to the final half second, but I knew it was going to come down to the end,' Hines said. 'Keene is a very good football program with some very talented athletes.'
Bedford narrowly beat Keene, 25-24, earlier in the season. Hines said Keene brought different defensive schemes than he expected, but an experience from last year's state championship game prompted his coaching staff to prepare for a range of looks.
'Defensively, we thought we were going to see a lot more pressure,' said Hines. 'They didn't bring that much pressure, but what they did do very well was they covered our receivers very well.'
Brian Collins led the Bedford receiving corps with seven catches for 159 yards and Dylan York came up just short of 100 yards to lead the rushing attack. Caparell finished with 266 yards passing on 15 completions.
Both the passing and running games benefitted from the stellar play of the offensive line, Hines said. The line brought back one starter from last year's Division III championship team, but he has been out all year with an injury, so every starter is new.
'Our offensive line, the entire five of them on the starting crew, is all underclassmen,' Hines said. 'They did a tremendous job opening up some holes and getting James time to throw the ball.'
While the offense gets credit for the game winning drive, the defense kept Bedford in the contest.
David Cannone helped shut down Keene's Alex Parentau, who, along with quarterback Lucas Luopa, Hines was most concerned with coming into the game.
'The defense stepped up huge,' Hines said. 'David Cannone, our middle linebacker, really led the defense.'
So, the Bulldogs head to Winnacunnet High School on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 1 p.m. to battle for the state championship.
Winnacunnet was the lone team to beat Bedford in the regular season. The Bulldogs dropped that second game of the season, 13-6, on Sept. 7. Since then, Bedford has defeated eight opponents in a row.
Winnacunnet's only loss this fall came against Keene on Oct. 12. The Warriors have won four games since then behind running back, Ben Franzoso, who Hines said 'has just been tearing teams apart.'
'I've been watching a lot of film this weekend, so we know we're in for a heck of a challenge,' said Hines. 'We've got to make sure we bring our best game.'