The Bedford High School football team had an excellent 2014 season, heading into the Division I championship game last weekend undefeated. Once there, the Bulldogs were simply no match for the Pinkerton Academy Astros.
The academy team was also unbeaten as it prepared for the divisional title contest at the University of New Hampshire in Durham last Saturday, Nov. 22. And coach Brian O’Reilly watched his Astros manhandle the Bedford team for a 37-0 blowout win and his program’s 11th state championship.
Two-way junior star T.J. Urbanik enjoyed a magical night, rushing the football for 241 yards and two touchdowns on offense and claiming two of the three pass interceptions the Astro defense got in the first half.
He helped his Astros to a 23-0 halftime lead that increased during the second half as Bedford’s offense was stymied by an Astro defense that was about as stingy as a defense can be.
“I’m really surprised that the game wound up this way,” said Urbanik. “Bedford was undefeated and a very good football team, and I thought it was going to be a really tight game. But we really blended tonight.”
The two teams didn’t play one another during the 2014 regular season, nor did they face any common opponents. So attempting to figure out how they would match up in the title contest after both went a perfect 11-0 through their first 11 contests was pretty tough.
“I figured it was either going to be a really, really close game, or if we could get the clock running on them maybe it wouldn’t be,” said O’Reilly. “It was either going to be that they were for real (defensively), or we were going to be able to get through creases against them.”
As things worked out in the title game, Pinkerton found and exploited creases and pounded its way to the win in utterly dominating the opponent.
When asked about the tremendous performance his defense put forth in the victory, O’Reilly pointed to self-effacing defensive coordinator Bryon Murphy, who has been on O’Reilly’s coaching staff for all of the titles.
“Our defense really came to play today,” said O’Reilly.
The Bulldogs, who recently lost starting senior quarterback Mike Vailas to a broken left leg, still were confident in their offense with the strong right arm of backup senior signal-caller Tyler Cibotti directing things. But Cibotti threw those three picks in the first half, and the Astros managed to make the turnovers hurt plenty.
The Bulldogs had the football first in the game, and they attempted three consecutive passes, with the first two falling incomplete and the third snared by Urbanik.
The Astros then reeled off a four-minute, eight-play drive that culminated with a 15-yard scoring sprint by Urbanik.
Bedford then attempted its first run of the night, followed by two more incomplete passes, and the Bulldogs had to punt. And Astro Nick Coombs ran the punt all the way back to the Bedford 16-yard-line to set up the locals’ offense in great shape.
Four plays later, after its offense sputtered a bit, Pinkerton settled for a 36-yard field goal from Kyle Cantalupo to make it a 10-0 game.
The Bedford offense struggled during its subsequent possession, and the Astros ended the first period and began the second with the football in their hands.
Then, with 8:18 left in quarter two, PA quarterback Jack Hanaway scored the first of his three touchdowns on the night by pushing ahead one yard into the end zone in completing an 11-play drive.
Defensive backs Brett Dattilo and Urbanik ended the next two Bedford offensive series with interceptions, and Hanaway put his team up 23-0 with an 18-yard scoring sprint with just 27 seconds left in the half.
Holding that lead, the Astros exited to their locker room also grasping an advantage in yards gained (198-80) in the first half, with Urbanik running for 99 yards on 12 carries.
Bedford got within mere inches of scoring a touchdown on its first offensive drive of the second half, with junior flanker Tom Reynolds being stopped just in front of the goal line on a fourth down pass play. And a moment later – with Pinkerton working to get out of the shadow of its own end zone – Urbanik tore off down the field for a 94-yard touchdown and the end of any comeback hopes the Bulldogs held.
Quarterback Hanaway added his third touchdown run of the night – this one for four yards – with 6:10 left in regulation time, and it was all over but the shouting by the victorious Astros and their fans.
The Astros’ offense collected nearly 400 yards in what will remain a memorable win, while the champs’’ fine defense held Bedford to just 128 total yards in a game that was a toss-up in many minds.