Jr. Bulldogs take on Tennessee

The Bedford Junior High School football team did not bring back any hardware from its trip to Knoxville, Tenn. It brought back something more.

On Nov. 22-23, the Jr. Bulldogs were in the Volunteer Sate for the Battle in Rocky Top tournament, along with more than 300 teams from across the country for a postseason exhibition.

Bedford came into Tennessee with a mentality of learning from a new environment of football, played at a higher level of competition, among opponents set on taking home the tournament title. Many of the far away teams were surprised and impressed by an appearance from the Granite State.

“They would say ‘New Hampshire?’” said Bedford coach Steve Krasinski. “They were not used to seeing any New Hampshire teams at any national tournament.”

The Bulldogs were unsuccessful in all of their games. Despite being amazed by the stature of their opponents, Bedford did keep its games competitive early on, but a lack of depth ended up being the difference as the Bulldogs had 32 of their 50 player roster on hand.

Saturday featured Bedford against the JCWFL Vipers (W.Va.) and then the Waterford (Mich.) Corsairs. Both games saw Bedford losing 20-6, with Liam Jackson accounting for each score. The Vipers had their work cut out for them in the first half when Jackson’s score had the game knotted 6-6.

“They were a little bit quicker, a little bit bigger, a little bit better,” Krasinksi said of his team’s adversaries. “But we were very competitive.”

The following day, the Bulldogs saw fellow New Englanders, the Monroe Lions of Connecticut. The action was highlighted by Ryan Toscano’s 65-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 14-6, but that was the extent of Bedford’s scoring. Monroe went on to win its age and weight bracket in the tournament.

As the Bulldogs realized upon arrival, the tournament was concentrated on varsity teams, leaving the Bedford junior varsity paired up with other varsity squads in its bracket.

“It was still a great experience because they got to see what Tennessee football teams looked like,” Krasinski said. “They still got a lot out of it.”

The JV Bulldogs dropped both games to the Bearden Bulldogs and Jackson Raiders, both from Tennessee.

“I told them that a lot of the kids you’re playing, you may be watching them on Saturday on TV someday,” Krasinski said. “You’re playing areas of the country that are recruited for top colleges and some of them may even go on to the pros.”

While other teams had to comply with curfews, the Bulldogs furthered their weekend experience by joining 100,000 fans at the University of Tennessee football game against Vanderbilt Saturday night.

“We got exactly out of the tournament what we wanted,” Krasinki said. “We wanted the kids to experience football outside of New England.”

Krasinki and the Bulldogs are hopeful their weekend endeavor will usher in not just a new Bedford tradition, but a New Hampshire one.

“I hope in the future the kids will bookmark their calendars so they can prepare for such an event at the end of the season,” said Krasinski. “If I was to do it again, I would want my whole team to go.”