THE GAME had been over for about 15 minutes and Pinkerton Academy football coach Brian O’Reilly was standing on the turf at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium patiently speaking with reporters as he always does, win or lose.
He had just watched Bedford complete an undefeated season by beating his Astros 28-14 in the Division I championship game Saturday night, and O’Reilly was reinforcing what those who had witnessed the game already knew: There was a lot to like about the 2018 Bulldogs.
“Now that you’ve played them, what would you say impresses you the most about this Bedford team?” one sportswriter asked O’Reilly.
“Their ability to run the ball,” O’Reilly said without any hesitation. “Their ability to run the ball. This is a dry field. They have power runners and we have a good defense. We are not a poor defensive team, and we could not get them off the field most of the time. Now that we’ve matched up … I couldn’t tell on the film, but they can run the ball on anyone if they wanted to.”
O’Reilly, a master of the Wing-T offense, knows a thing or two about running the football. Many felt Pinkerton would have to have a significant edge in rushing yards to have any shot of beating Bedford, but the Bulldogs outgained the Astros 246-160 on the ground.
Bedford (12-0) averaged 5.5 yards per carry and rushed for three touchdowns. It might have been four rushing touchdowns had Timothy Greene not broken a tackle around the 5-yard line on a play that ended up being a 25-yard TD reception.
Ryan Toscano made the most of his blocking by rushing for a game-high 185 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He moved the pile on a couple of those carries and picked up some of those yards on his own.
Bedford also used Harrison LeGoullon as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation Saturday. It didn’t always work, but LeGoullon did rush for two touchdowns from that formation once Bedford got close to the Pinkerton goal line.
“The Wildcat package has been part of our offense for the last couple weeks as we practiced,” Bedford coach Derek Stank said. “We needed it. Many of the other games we never got into a situation where we needed to establish the run and needed to get those yards in crucial situations. The run game was without a doubt the key to our success.”
Bedford quarterback Thomas Morgan loosened up the Pinkerton defense by completing 13-of-21 passes for 149 yards, and the Bedford defense was terrific — both Pinkerton TDs were set up by turnovers deep in Bedford territory — but the Bulldogs set the tone with their running game.
Bedford’s opening possession resulted in a 15-play, 75-yard TD drive that took 6 minutes, 53 seconds off the clock. Bedford’s second possession started inches from its own goal line, and the Bulldogs moved the ball 99 yards on 14 plays to take a 14-0 lead. That drive consumed 6:03.
Bedford, which scored a touchdown in each quarter, had the ball for all but 9:03 of the first half.
“They did a great job of keeping the ball away from us,” O’Reilly said. “They ran the ball very well.
“As I tell my players all the time, when the game is over, if you say to yourself that ‘I did everything I possibly could on the field. I didn’t leave anything behind. I didn’t take a play off.’ Then you just have to tip your hat to the other team. From what I saw out here, that’s what we did.”
NHIAA football featured a good number of excellent quarterbacks this season, but most of them are seniors. Who will be the best high school quarterback in the state next season?
It might be Alvirne’s Kyle Gora, who completed his sophomore season with a 29-18 loss to Plymouth in Saturday’s Division II championship game. Gora’s final numbers this year: 88 completions in 197 attempts for 1,310 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions; and 553 yards rushing and 15 TDs on 128 carries.
Alvirne coach Tarek Rothe said Gora played in a considerable amount of pain Saturday after taking a hit to the stomach in the first quarter. Gora completed 15 of 32 passes for 167 yards and a TD in the loss. He also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s got lots of fight in him,” Rothe said. “He was throwing up on the sideline since quarter one. He just fought his heart out. He’s a great leader. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do the next (couple) years.”
The best performance in a losing effort Saturday goes to the Campbell defense, which was stellar in a 15-12 loss to top-seeded Monadnock. Campbell held Monadnock to 236 yards of total offense (an average of 3.3 yards per play) and stopped the Huskies on 14 of the 16 times they attempted to convert on third down. Monadnock, which runs a Wishbone offense, averaged 2.6 yards on 65 rushing attempts.
It was Monadnock’s lowest point total of the season. The Huskies scored at least 35 points in nine of their previous 11 games this season.