By: Ross Laorenza
The Bedford Bulldogs are NHIAA D-I football champions. Bedford completed their undefeated season with a 7-0 victory over Exeter in the title game. It was a stout performance by the Bulldog defense, holding Exeter to 152 total yard of offense and more importantly holding them off the scoreboard.
The game was scoreless at halftime. Bedford came close to scoring in the final minute of the first half, but Connor Robert was picked off trying to connect on a slant pass to Noah Chaberek. Exeter was content going into the half tied and knelt down twice after the turnover.
The second half's opening drive would yield the game's only points. Bedford started at their own 20 and utilized the no huddle to gain some traction. Nick Leahy was a bell-cow for Bedford carrying the ball 5 times on the drive for 57 yards. Once in striking distance Robert took over. A Holding call would set Bedford back to a first and 19 at the 33, but Robert came through. First gaining 8 yards on the ground, then a 2 yard completion to Liam Greene. Now facing 3rd and 9 from the 23 he threw a rainbow down the left sideline to a wide open Noah Chaberek in the end zone. Touchdown Bedford. The XP gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter.
Exeter drove right down the field on their ensuing possession, but facing a 4th and 4 from the 26 Kyle Ball was picked off by Shahrukh Hussain. Bedford could not capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt. Exeter's following drive was a short three-and-out.
The Bulldogs took over at their 34 and began moving the ball down field. Leahy rushed for 13, Hussain for 10 yard into Exeter territory, then Roberts for 4 yards. The drive slowed near the Exeter 35 and Roberts was tackled by Liam McIlveen for a loss on 4th and 2 turning the ball over on downs.
Again Exeter would go quickly three-and-out. Bedford would begin driving, but on the sixth play of their drive Robert was picked off at the 30 by Cody Morrisette.
The Blue Hawks were still down 7 with time winding down. Cam Flanagan converted a big 4th and 2 conversion to get the ball near mid field, but two plays later disaster struck. Ball dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Kyle Lagerquist. With 2:34 and Exeter running out of time outs, Bedford just needed to pick up two first downs. Leahy carried the way including a 14 yard rush to seal the game. Victory formation for the Bulldogs, and it was all over. Exeter defenders sat heart broken on the field. This marked the second straight loss in the D-I title game.
Nick Leahy led the way for Bedford with 18 rushes and 124 yards. Connor Robert finished 8 of 21 passing for 66 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 INTs. Noah Chaberek caught three passes for 46 yards and the game's only score.
I caught up with Bedford coach Derek Stank after the game and asked him what this win does for his program, "It just solidifies that we can finish. That was the motto that I put on the back of the t-shirts when I took over this job two years ago. We were so close, you know we had a great season that year. We were 11-0, but we were unable to finish. So that's what we walked into this year thinking. We need to finish everything we do from the first snap to the last. And these boys they showed it last week when they finished when we needed it the most, and they finished it today again to make sure we were state title holders."
Congratulations to both teams on excellent seasons.
From UNH; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook