Saturday, November 2, 2013

Central Beats Bedford, Punches Ticket to Playoffs

It was built up as the game of the week and for good reason. It was a match up of 2 of the top 10 teams in the state, with major playoff implications on the line. The winner would head to the playoffs and play at Concord next weekend, and for the team that lost their season would be over.

The game lived up to the hype and then some. Manchester Central senior running back (and NH Mr. Football candidate) Jesiah Wade (217 rushing yards) broke off a 35 yard touchdown run to make it a 2 score game, 20-10 with just 1:28 remaining. That run came on 3rd and 1 from the Bedford 35. Central was just trying to run the clock out, to at least just get that 1 yard they needed for the 1st down. But Wade is not your typical player, so not only did he get the 1st down but he broke through the middle of the Bedford defense, bounced it to the outside edge and took it to the house. Wade has made tons of big plays this season but that was the biggest one.

Keegan Laberge kicked 2 big field goals in the 2nd half as well, one that tied the game 10-10 and another that put the Little Green up 13-10. Central's defense also really stepped up, with some big tackles, sacks and forcing turnovers. Jorge Gomez, Nick Makris, Gino Otero, Abe Madra, Zach Lansing and Julio Rincon all made big plays on 'D' for the Little Green in the win.

Central wins it 20-16, and they will play at Concord next week in the playoffs. Bedford was a consensus top 3 team in the state all season, even spending a few weeks in the #1 spot, but somehow the Bulldogs will be missing out on the playoffs. Without question, the top 6 teams in the state are Concord, South, Keene, Pinkerton, Bedford and Central (in no particular order). 8 teams make the playoffs in D-I, but Bedford isn't one of them. The Bulldogs end the season with a 7-2 record but somehow miss the playoffs. That is what you call a flawed playoff system, which definitely needs to be fixed by the NHIAA.

Bedford was the sharper team early on. They forced Central into a 3-and-out on their first drive, as Bedford linebacker. Thomas O'Rourke drilled Wade on a rushing attempt for no gain. After the punt it's Bedford ball on the Central 43 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage junior RB/DB Mike Vailas goes off for a 43 yard touchdown run. Vailas made a couple of juke moves to shake off defenders, found some daylight and used his breakaway speed to reach the end zone. 7-0 Bulldogs, 10:26 left 1st quarter.

On Central's ensuing possession they marched down the field, mixing the run and the pass, led by Wade and QB Richie Greeley. They get into the red zone, but Greely got picked off on the 1 yard line by Mike Vailas. We were only a few minutes into the game and Mike Vailas had already scored a 43 yard TD run and intercepted a pass on the 1 yard line.

Bedford punts and Central gets the ball right back, still trailing 7-0. Again, Greeley and Wade go to work moving the ball on the Bulldogs' defense. Eric Glassman and O'Rourke made some tough hits on the drive. Central was able to get to the Bedford 10 yard line. That's when Greely got hit by Glassman, fumbled the ball and it was recovered by O'Rourke. Central had just turned it over inside the Bedford 10 yard line in back-to-back possessions. If they had lost this game there's no doubt they would look at that as the reason why. But Central hung in there, kept on battling and found a way to win in the end.

Bedford ball, but they give it right back to Central. They start the drive backed up on their own 5 yard line, and Bulldogs' QB Dan Colella gets picked off by Madra on the 18. On the very next play Wade takes the handoff and runs it in for the 18 yard TD. PAT is good, and we're all tied up 7-7 with 7:03 left 2nd quarter.

Bedford now tries to answer back, but Central was getting some solid defense. Otero made a good hit for no gain, then Lansing makes a hard hit on Colella. Colella gets right back up though and connects with Nick Vailas for a 30 yard completion to the Central 11 yard line. Colella throws it to the end zone twice but both passes fell incomplete, as Central got some strong pass coverage from Otero and Rincon. As a result the Bulldogs brought Keelan McCoole in to attempt a 26 yard field goal. The kick was good, and Bedford regains the lead 10-7, 2:29 left 2nd quarter. This game had 3 ties and 3 lead changes.

Central ball, but they again turn it over as Greely is picked off, this time by Nate Jaeger on his own 36 yard line. The turnover fest continued - on Bedford's next drive they try to run a double reverse but fumble the ball on the second handoff and it's recovered by Makris for Central. In the 1st half Central had 3 turnovers and Bedford had 2.
On the ensuing Little Green possession they didn't turn it over, but had a missed field goal from 43 yards out. It's Bedford 10 Central 7 at halftime.

The 2nd half begins, and again there's more turnovers. Bedford has the ball to start the 3rd quarter. Gomes and Makris team up to sack Colella. Then Colella throws a pass, it gets tipped and intercepted by Otero. The Central defense is fast and aggressive.

Little Green ball, with solid field position on their on 45. Greeley nearly gets picked off, as he completes a pass to Nathan Guillermo. Mike Vailas and Guillermo both jumped up for the ball, and they both had their hands on it. They fell to the ground and continued to battle for possession. Vailas ended up with the ball, but the officials called it a catch for Guillermo. Tough call right there. Greeley again tries to throw it to Guillermo, this time in the end zone but it falls incomplete. Then it's 4th and 1 on the Bedford 9 yard line. Wade runs for 7 yards and the 1st down to set up 1st and goal from the 2. Should be an easy touchdown from here for Central, right? Wrong. O'Rourke and Matt Howe were in on a hit for no gain. Then a false start penalty on Central pushes them back to the 7. On 3rd and goal from the 7 Greeley hits Wade for a screen pass but he is tackled right away after a gain of just 1. In comes Laberge, whose 23 yard FG was good to tie the game back up 10-10. Greeley was 19/16 passing for 132 yards.

Both teams punt on their next drives, and then Colella is again intercepted, this time by Rincon. Laberge kicks a 37 yard field goal to put Central up 13-10.

Central ball, trying to run the clock out. That's when Wade broke off that 35 yard TD run. 20-10 Central, 1:28 left 4th quarter.

At this point it would take a near-miracle for the Bulldogs to come back and win. They need to score, recover an onside kick and then score again. They were able to get the first part of that equation done, as Colella hit Jaeger for a 13 yard TD pass. The PAT was no good though, so it's 20-16 Central with :51.9 left. Now Bedford needed to recover the onside kick. Unfortunately though, Central was able to recover the ball and run the clock out. Game over, Central wins 20-16.

A great win for Central, and a heartbreaking loss for Bedford. The Bulldogs aren't going anywhere though, as they have a strong pipeline of talent coming up, including many of their starters on this year's team who are only juniors (Glassman, Mike Vailas, O'Rourke, etc.) Central will play at Concord next week in the playoffs. They played against each other in week 1, with Concord winning 35-6. Look for it to be a much more competitive game this time though. Central has won 7 in a row and has clearly gotten better as the season has gone on. Their defense has gotten better, and Greeley also missed some time early in the year injured. But he's healthy now and is a leader for their team. Oh yeah, and Wade has emerged as possibly the best player in the state.


  1. Shocked that Bedford is out of the playoffs.

  2. Has any other high school running back besides Jesiah Wade, had back to back seasons of over 2000 plus yards?