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August 24. 2014 8:24PM

NHIAA Boys' Soccer: Bedford has weapons

An early test

What: Division I boys' soccer opener

Who: Manchester Central at Bedford

When: Friday, 4 p.m.

Where: Bedford High

The skinny: Both schools return talent from teams that qualified for the Division I tournament a year ago. Central reached the semifinals before losing to Alvirne of Hudson.

BEDFORD — Bedford High boys' soccer coach Stuart Pepper was eager to test his team during Sunday's 10-team jamboree.

The Bulldogs will field newcomers, as well as two key players who missed last season to injury, Dan Smushkin and Matt Martin. On Smushkin: “He's looking great,” said Pepper. “He's got his energy. I think being out has made him even more hungry. I think he's one of the best midfielders in the state and he just wants to enjoy every minute.”

“And Matt Martin is back,” said Pepper. “He's another impact player who brings more physicality to the team,” said Pepper. “Hopefully they'll be ready Friday against (Manchester) Central.”

Bedford, eliminated from the Division I tournament in the first round last fall, will have several new faces. Talented freshman Rich DiMarco and a European import, Magnus Dagler, a Danish exchange student, will play for the Bulldogs this year.

On Sunday, two other DIvision I teams, Salem and Exeter faced off in an early match. The Blue Hawks had a solid year in 2013 at 13-5 but coach Jim Tufts says competition will be tougher this year.

“There are an awful lot of good teams in our division. We will see how it goes,” said Tufts. “Today was a classroom day. We're better than we were at 9 o'clock.”

Salem coach Tony Karibian hopes his Blue Devil squad can be more consistent this year. “We have some players last year who are back a little older and wiser,” said Karibian. “Hopefully that will all pan out for us but we have work to do.”

Division II Goffstown, which also participated on Sunday, has former head coach Randy Lovering back with an experienced, senior-laden team. “Our goal is to have two playoff games at home. Our goal is to be a top-four team,” said Lovering. “Once we're there, anything can happen.”

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