NHIAA Div. II Football Championship Preview: Bedford believes in itself
Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant apparently provided that for Bedford after the Warriors beat the Bulldogs, 13-6, in Bedford during the second week of the season.
The way Bedford coach Kurt Hines recalls it, "He said you have a good program and you'll go far."
OK, it wasn't exactly inflammatory - quite the opposite - but it was something Hines thought his kids needed to hear.
"I believed what he said," Hines said. "And that was the message I brought back to my team."
Apparently they believed it as well.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (9-1) have a chance to go farther than anyone probably would have imagined when Bedford began this maiden season in Division II football when they play the top-seeded Warriors (10-1) in the Division II championship game Saturday (1 p.m.) in Hampton.
A year after reaching the Division III title game - where it lost to Portsmouth - Bedford jumped up a division in just its fifth year as a varsity program. Hines said his team still didn't know where it fit when it played Winnacunnet - a team that had gone to the Division II championship game two out of the previous three years.
The Bulldogs lost the game, but they found out a lot about themselves and their new environment.
"We left that game as a staff and as a program feeling we can compete in Division II," Hines said.
Bedford reeled off eight straight wins since that game, including last week's 20-15 last-second, heart-stopping semifinal win over Keene that Hines said was the most exciting game he has been involved with since he started playing football in second grade. He said the team didn't know who it would be playing before the players immediately started talking about a rematch with Winnacunnet.
"Rarely in life do you get a redo," Hines said. "I think the kids realize what a blessing it is to play them again."
Well, the Bulldogs have their wish, now they'll have to figure out how to come out with a different result.
Hines said Winnacunnet has a big and fast defense and he is especially concerned with lineman Renaldo Gordon, who impressed him by tracking down Bedford quarterback James Caparell from behind on one play. He said the Warriors did a good job containing Bedford's passing game; that was the only game the Bulldogs were held under 20 points.
"One thing we've been stressing to our kids is that they are really fast," Hines said.
On the other side of the ball, Hines said the Bulldogs have to do a better job containing Winnacunnet's senior running back Ben Franzoso.
"He's a definite big-play threat," Hines said.
Franzoso gained 139 yards the first time the teams played and was instrumental in Winnacunnet's second touchdown that put the Warriors ahead 13-0 in the fourth quarter, carrying seven times and catching a big pass during the drive.
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Jim Fennell may be reached at email@example.com.