You had without question 2 of the top 5 teams in the state battling it out. You had 2 very good coaches (Kurt Hines and John Luopa), you had the 2 best QB’s in the state (James Caparell and Lucas Luopa), you had 2 of the best defensive players in the state (David Cannone and Jimmy Heaney). You had 4 lead changes, including 3 lead changes in the 4th quarter alone. You had a great crowd on hand and absolutely perfect weather for football.
You had a trip to the D-II title game on the line. You had 2 teams who gave it everything they had and left it all out on the field. You had crucial 4th downs that were converted, a gutsy 2-point conversion attempt that paid off. You had fumbles, sacks and HB pass plays. You had the end of 6 straight years of a Luopa playing QB for Keene (with their father coaching them). You had more twists and turns than Quentin Tarantino film and you had more drama than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
And oh by the way you also had a team drive down the field in just 43 seconds and score the game-winning touchdown on the last play of the game. You simply could not ask for more from this epic Division II semi-final game. Unless you are from Keene, because then of course you would have rather seen a different ending.
It ended with Caparell diving into the end zone from the 1 yard line, Bedford storming the field in celebration and the Bulldogs defeating Keene in a thriller 20-15.
“It’s a great feeling” said Caparell. I give credit to Keene, they’re a great team. But we just had a lot of confidence on that last drive that we could do it. We have some of the best receivers in the state and a great o-line which helped me out.”
A game that everyone in attendance will remember for a very long time. For Bedford it was an amazing win, and for Keene it was a heart-breaking loss.
“We gave it everything we had” said Keene head coach John Luopa. “I wouldn’t trade these kids for the world.”
The Final Drive
Up until Bedford’s game-winning final drive their offense had been held in check by the tough, hard-hitting Keene defense. Heaney, Alex Parenteau and company were doing a great job on ‘D’ for the Blackbirds.
Still, the Bulldogs were only down by 1 point (15-14) so all they had to do was get into field goal range. And even though there was only 43 seconds left Bedford had the benefit of some solid field position. Keene did a squib kick on the kickoff to prevent any possibility of a big return for Bedford. This gave the Bulldogs the ball at their own 43 yard line. Plus Bedford has a quick strike offense, with their ability to spread the field and have Caparell fire the ball out to his talented WR’s. After all, the Bulldogs already beat Dover, Spaulding and Keene during the regular season by scoring last minute TDs.
Caparell completed passes to Brian Collins and the Vailas cousins Nick and Mike who did a good job of picking up yards but also getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Then came the biggest pass of the game, a 33 yard completion from Caparell to Nick Vailas down to the Keene 1 yard line.
So now the question is, does Bedford go for the field goal here or the touchdown? Well they called a timeout to talk about it. Then after both teams came to the line of scrimmage Keene called a timeout. Finally we were ready for final play of the game. Caparell got a push from his line, and dove in for the touchdown. Game over.
“We going to go for the field goal at first” said Caparell. “But then as a team we decided to go for it. I got a good push from the o-line.”
Keene’s Drive Right Before That
Keene put together an outstanding drive of their own to re-take the lead 15-14 with 43 seconds left. At the time it looked like the game-winning TD and 2 point conversion.
When the Blackbirds started the drive there was only 2:00 left in the 4th quarter, they were down 14-7 and were way back on their own 27 yard line. Not only that, but after an excellent tackle by Eric Glassman and a HB pass play by Parenteau which did not fool Bedford’s defense at all Keene really had their backs up against the wall. It was 4th down and 12 on their own 25.
That’s when Luopa completed a HUGE 15 yard pass to senior WR/DB Matt Delvecchio for the first down. Then came another first down pass play from Luopa and then a 25 yard TD pass from Luopa to Riley Morris.
That made it 14-13 Bedford with 43.6 seconds left. So now here is your classic debate. Do you go for the 2 point conversion or kick the PAT? In other words, do you go for the win or play for overtime? Well, Keene went for 2, and it worked. Luopa made a 2 step drop, and hit Alex Austin in the end zone with a pass for the conversion. Keene took a 15-14 lead. The Blackbirds sideline (as well as their fans) were going nuts. It looked like they had the game won.
“Our plan that whole drive was to go for 2 if we got the touchdown” said Keene head coach John Luopa. “Then we saw what coverage they had, and they left the tight end wide open. It was the easiest 2 point conversion we’ve made all year.”
Defense Dominated 1st Half
Keene’s defense was led by Heaney, Parenteau, Hunter Wilkinson, Colin Whitcomb, Luopa and Tom Galanes. Bedford meanwhile was getting strong play on ‘D’ from Cannone, Jack Terzian, Joe Thibeault, Matt Howe, Tyler Krause and Trent Fortune. The defenses were really stepping up on both sides, no question about it. Coming in I expected a higher scoring game, but the 2 teams combined for just 7 points in the 1st half.
Those points came on a 2 yard TD run by Parenteau. It was an impressive drive by the Blackbirds. It started back on their own 33 yard line, but they slowly and methodically moved down the field with all running plays. Then finally they attempted a pass, and Luopa hit Parenteau for an 11 yard completion down to the Bedford 2. It was 4th down and inches from the 2 when Parenteau dove in for the TD. The extra point was good and it was 7-0 Keene with 458 left in the 2nd quarter.
Bedford’s best chance to score in the 1st half came on the previous drive. They got down to the Keene 31 yard line. Then the drive stalled, bringing up 4th down and 12 on the 33. Caparell threw a pass to the end zone intended for Nick Vailas but the pass fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs.
The Bulldogs were actually lucky to only be down by one TD at halftime. On the last play of the half Luopa threw a deep pass to the end zone for Delvecchio. Delvecchio caught the pass in the end zone but he was ruled out of bounds. Bedford dodged a bullet there!
Bedford Offense Finally Gets Going in 3rd Quarter
So the Bulldogs were down 7-0 at halftime. They were having mixed results running the ball and Caparell hadn’t gotten into a rhythm as of yet. That changed in their second drive of the 3rd quarter. The first big play of the drive was on 4th down and 1 on their own 42 yard line. It was a bold move to go for it in your own end, but it paid off as Caparell kept it himself and ran for a 4 yard gain and the 1st down.
Then Caparell hit Collins with a pass coming across the middle of the field. Collins made the catch around the Keene 45 yard line and ran it the rest of the way for the score. It was a 53 yard touchdown, and after the PAT by Keelan McCoole we were all tied up 7-7 with 6:57 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the Bulldogs' next possession they once again went for it on 4th down in their own end. It was 4th and 1 on their own 35. Again it was a Caparell QB sneak, and again he got the 1st down (just barely this time though). But then he got hit by Heaney, who also knocked the ball out of Caparell’s hands. Parenteau recovered the fumble for Keene, giving the Blackbirds the ball on the Bedford 39 yard line. But then they fumbled the ball right back, and this time it was recovered by Bedford.
Then we had some more big plays for Caparell, Collins and Nick Vailas. Caparell completed a 44 yard pass to Collins. Once again there was a lot of yards after the catch (YAC) on this one. Collins had 2 Keene defenders draped all over his back but he just kept on running and picked up another 15 yards with them there.
“I felt Luopa and their other player on my back but I just kept driving my feet forward” said Collins. “That’s what our coaches tell us to do.”
Shortly after that the Bedford student section started chanting Collins’ name.
“I think he’s the best receiver in the state” said Caparell. “He’s 6-foot-2, 200 lbs. and fast. He’s a beast.”
That set up an 8 yard TD pass from Caparell to Nick Vailas. After the extra point it was 14-7 Bedford with 10:34 left in the 4th quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Keene fumbled the ball once again. This time it hurt them even more, as they had been able to get all the way down to the BHS 13 yard line. The fumble was recovered by Aaron Palys for the Bulldogs.