By: Jeremy Leveille
Bend but don't break. It may be a cliche in football but it was certainly the case for the Bedford Bulldogs defense on Friday night. Winnacunnet had four drives deep into Bedford territory. Two if them ended in turnover on downs and two of them ended in interceptions. As a result, the Warriors lost to Bedford 21-0 despite out-gaining Bedford in total yardage 268-220 and winning the time of possession battle 29 minutes to 17.
"Bend but not break, it's what we preach" said Bedford head coach Kurt Hines.
"We need to work on our red zone offense" commented Winnacunnet head coach Ron Auffant. "A lot of that falls on me."
Conor Harrison intercepted a pass in the end zone, thrown by Winnacunnet QB Brian Auffant (Coach Auffant's on), and Austin D'Anjou intercepted an Auffant pass on his own five yard line. The Warriors showed the ability to move the football on Bedford's defense, led by Auffant and the running back tandem of Mike Lewis and Christian LaRosa and a solid receiving core including Anthony Primavera and Michael Mawson. But they just couldn't seem to punch it in.
"The story of this game was our turnovers and not finishing drives" lamented Coach Auffant.
While Winnacunnet was able to move the football effectively and sustain drives, Bedford's 'D' made plays at key times. And it seemed like each time it was always someone different. Harrison had the interception in the end zone and also a fumble recovery. Defensive lineman Robert Heald made key tackles and a fumble recovery. When Winnacunnet had 4th and goal on the Bedford 13 yard line it was Tucker Lavigne with some great coverage to break up a pass to the end zone. Linebacker Daniel Flynn had a crucial sack in the red zone. Flynn and Colin Cashin made key tackles.
"Mike Vailas, Matt Glassman and Colin Cashin might get the headlines, and deservedly so; but there's a lot of guys on this team who can step up" Coach Hines pointed out. "I'm proud of the way the guys played."
Speaking of Vailas, how is it we've gotten this far into the article and are just now mentioning the player who scored all three of the game's touchdowns? (Good thing I don't write for a newspaper!). Vailas had TD runs of 56, 10 and 3 yards. The 56-yarder was a highlight reel play, and if there was a NH football version of SportsCenter's top 10 plays it would have definitely been on there. After a 14 yard carry by Sean Tierney, Vailas broke five tackles en route to a 56 yard TD run where he showed tremendous elusiveness, open field moves to make defenders miss, break their ankles and broke through to the second level of Winnacunnet's defense and from there it was a foot race to the end zone. Vailas is a special talent, and on that play his talent was on full display.
"I kept giving the ball to Colin Cashin when we ran that play and I saw their defense was biting" said Vailas, who is playing quarterback for the first time in his life this season. "So on that one I thought I'd try to keep it myself, run it, and make people miss."
That made it 14-0 Bedford with 10:23 left in the 2nd quarter. Vailas' first TD run was from just 3 yards out. It came as a result of some terrific field position for the Bulldogs after Winnacunnet fumbled the ball attempting a pitch to a HB on their very first play from scrimmage. It was recovered by Harrison, giving Bedford the ball inside the Winnacunnet 10 yard line.
It was 14-0 Bedford at halftime, although Winnacunnet had two drives inside the Bulldog's 10 yard line late in the 2nd quarter which both ended in turnover on downs. It remained 14-0 Bedford until 6:49 left in the 4th quarter. Harrison had just intercepted an Auffant pass in the end zone, and then Bedford went to work running the ball, marching down the field and trying to eat the clock. Mike Lewis made a good tackle for the Warriors, but Cashin made a 13 yard run and Vailas picked up 4 yards on 4th and 1. This time Vailas faked a hand off, and again showed those shifty, elusive moves in the open field to break though the Winnacunnet 'D' and scamper in for the 10 yard score. 21-0 Bedford.
A'Anjou intercepted an Auffant pass on the ensuing Winnacunnet drive to put the game on ice.
"Brian has a back injury that's been bothering him for awhile" commented Coach Auffant. "We need to get his back straightened out. He's only playing at about 70% right now."
Bedford is now 3-0 in Division I and Winnacunnet falls to 1-2.
"This was disappointing, but it's a long season" explained Coach Auffant. "Our goal is a top 2 seed in our conference."
The Warriors have a big game in their conference next weekend vs. arch-rival Exeter. Look for a possible big time match up in the trenches between Exeter's Neil Vorster and Patrick Witt of Winnacunnet. Both kids are beasts.
Cashin once again went over 90 yards rushing, filling in for starting running back Mike Collins who is out with a broken leg.
"Colin is a leader for us, on and off the field" said Coach Hines.