So, who’s whispering about a “weak schedule” now? Anybody? Bueller?
The Bedford High School Buccaneers, seeded 12th in MIAA Division 4 football rankings despite a 7-1 record, dominated the fifth-seeded Tewksbury Redmen Friday night and will move on to the state quarterfinals at undefeated Grafton High School next Friday, with a 7 p.m. kickoff. (An hour west of Bedford, Grafton is not yet in Central Time.)
Bedford’s 28-21 win over Tewksbury was a tour de force. The final score does not indicate how much the Bucs controlled the game from start to finish. Tewksbury kept it close thanks to a couple of big Buc penalties, an ineffective punt, and a trick play. The Bucs just did what they do—move the ball, score, and play solid defense.
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“We were able to run the ball consistently,” said Head Coach Tom Tone. “That was huge. That was the difference in the game.”
Indeed, junior tailback Eric Miles (155 yards) busted for seven yards on the first play from scrimmage, scored the third Bedford touchdown with a 47-yard blast, and ended the game by sliding down at the one-yard line with about a minute to go, ensuring that his team would end the game in “victory formation.”
“You never know how you’re going to match up,” Tone observed, pointing out that the two teams had no common opponents but the Redmen schedule features larger schools.
But he also noted, “They have a lot of two-way guys and we hoped our (no-huddle) offense would wear them down.”
That may have been the case in the fourth quarter. Trailing 28-21, the Redmen repeatedly called on their senior quarterback, a talented athlete named Danny Fleming, a former running back. Following a 31-yard quick-kick by Bedford quarterback Jake Morrison (“that was huge,” Tone attested) and seven minutes on the clock, Fleming carried the ball effectively on four of the next five plays.
But then the QB rolled to the right and tried to float a pass—which Charlie Naylor intercepted with a leap near midfield. The clock said 4:06, and Tewksbury never touched the ball again. The Bucs converted a huge first down on a 10-yard pass from Morrison to Naylor, and then Miles broke his 36-yard scamper on a third-and-seven.
Back in the third period, the winning drive began at the Bedford 48, as Tewksbury followed its tying touchdown with a squib kick. Talk about a momentum-switcher. The Bucs, who had a 21-7 lead late in the first half, continued doing what they do: moving the ball downfield.
Two inside runs by Miles and a 10-yard Morrison throw to Nick Tatarczuk, and the ball was inside the 30. Then Miles gained eight valuable first-down yards, dragging tacklers, and two plays later, Morrison found Tatarczuk on a slip screen to his left that finished in the endzone. Tatarczuk then added his fourth extra point.
So-called experts were skeptical of the Bucs’ chances in this game despite Bedford’s prodigious offensive output because of a comparatively weak schedule.
But the first series of the game ended all doubts, as Morrison marched the team 61 yards in 10 plays, running it in from the eight on an option play.
Tewksbury tied the game with an 80-yard drive, but 30 of those yards were the result of two major penalties on the Bucs.
Then Bedford took over both ways. First, the quick-strike offense made it 14-7 with a 62-yard drive that took less than three minutes. The big play was a 40-yard touchdown pass from Morrison to Naylor, who was well-covered but caught the pass in full stride as he crossed the goal line.
On the ensuing possession, the Redmen turned the ball over on their second play, as Morrison recovered a bad exchange at the Tewksbury 48. Miles was stopped on first down but broke through on his next carry for a 47-yard TD with eight minutes remaining in the half.
The Bedford defense was in control for most of this game. Junior middle linebacker Jamie Buchannan had six unassisted tackles; his classmate Ryan Cohen had two big solo stops for losses. The defenders stretched the field east-west and corralled speedy running back Alex Arbogast; he finished with 32. Tewksbury, an offensive powerhouse, ended up with only 230 total yards; Fleming ran, threw, and caught 197 of them.
After Mikey DeLia intercepted a Fleming pass toward the end of the first half, Bedford gambled on third down deep in their own territory, but Morrison slightly overthrew Naylor on a go pattern. So Naylor had to punt, and the backspin resulted in a net kick of 12 yards. The Redmen were on the BHS 34 with 50 seconds to go and two timeouts.
Thanks to his athleticism, Fleming ran 16 yards on a fourth-down play and then scrambled for seven more. He threw to Michael Sullivan on a rollout to the right corner of the endzone with seven seconds on the clock.
Tewksbury tied the game on a drive that took almost seven and a half minutes of the third quarter and ended with a trick play. Fleming handed off to Arbogast, who gave the ball to Sullivan on an inside reverse. Sullivan, a junior wide receiver, then passed to quarterback Fleming, who was sneaking downfield. The razzle-dazzle covered 31 yards.
Coach Tone said after the game that the Bucs actually had been on the lookout for that play, but Fleming’s shiftiness outdid the Bucs’ preparation. In any case, Bedford had the lead back for good less than three minutes later.
Morrison completed nine of 13 passes for 119 yards; Naylor caught six for 185. Bedford’s total offense was 299, but Miles’s decision not to add that single yard was smart, winning football.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763