The Bedford High boys soccer team hasn’t been to the state finals in 20 years. In 1999 and 2000, the Buccaneers advanced but were defeated in the opening game.
The 2019 version will now try and take that extra step.
Boasting more than a dozen seniors and coming off of a successful season that fell frustratingly short, the Bedford High boys soccer team had one goal coming into 2019. On a crisp, clear Saturday afternoon in Manning Bowl, that goal came to fruition with a 3-1 victory against Lynnfield for the Division 3 North championship.
Now, the Buccaneers (17-1-1), the top seed in their division, faces Medway in the State Semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday, again in Manning Bowl. Medway (19-2-1), a three seed in the Division 3 South, defeated Norton, 1-0, in overtime penalty kicks for the championship.
“Two more games left,” Bedford senior goalkeeper Chris Venuti said. “I’ve been playing with the same group of guys since we were 6 and 7 years old. So, this is something special.”
Lynnfield (12-9-1), the 10th seed, played giant killers in advancing to the division final, upsetting the three higher seeds, including No. 2 Northeast and No. 3 seed Watertown.
“It was great been able to share this with the seniors,” Bedford coach Dave Boschetto said. “We have 10 of them who played minutes as freshmen on the varsity. We’ve had guys sacrifice. We have some guys who have started games freshmen who aren’t starting every game this year. That’s a testament to them as young men.”
Bedford made it clear from the start that Lynnfield’s Cinderella run was over. The Bucs’ opening salvo came in the first minute as sophomore Max Alper fired low but his shot went wide.
However, less than two minutes later, senior Dexter Kennedy’s looping pass found senior teammate Ryan Knight in front of goal. Knight’s header was the first of two first-half goals for the Buccaneers.
Junior Jasper Paez gave Bedford a 2-0 lead with 23 minutes to play in the opening half, with senior Nolan Hafer earning the assist. Lynnfield pulled a goal back at the 4 minute, 42-second mark of the half, but would get no more.
Six minutes into the second half, Alper was tripped up outside the 18-yard box, setting up a free kick. Kennedy booted a low rolling effort that beat the Lynnfield keeper. From there, Bedford played possession soccer, maintaining control throughout.
Venuti was forced to make a couple of quality saves, but the Bedford defense was more than a match for the determined but outclassed Pioneers.
“You’re never all the way in control of a game in my view, especially against a team like this who is smart and never got out of what they do,” Boschetto said. “I hoped there were more goals for us but you never know.”
With a roster built on seniors, 16 in all, this season’s success has been the result of great chemistry and talent. There was also the drive to overcome two heartbreaks from years past.
In 2018, Bedford was upset in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks in overtime. The Bucs also lost the year before that in overtime.
This season, led by the Dual County League’s Most Valuable Player Marcus Voss, Bedford made its mark with balance. Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Bucs had allowed just four goals and won 15 times by shutout.
“Lynnfield had good athletes, but we were able to keep the ball a little bit better under tight circumstances,” Boschetto said. “Also, their league is a good league but ours is a very, very good league and going through that for four years tests you and helps you know what the standard is.
Offensively, seniors Jessop Collins and Voss led the way with a host of others capable of finding goal.
“We’ve had a core of 12 players who played together since the fifth grade,” Kennedy said. “Last year we were in shock [after losing in the tournament]. We want to win the state title.”