Three years ago, the Bedford High School boys lacrosse team made a promise.
The Bulldogs had just suffered a crushing loss to Souhegan at Exeter High School’s Eustis Field, and as they filed onto the bus, the returning players vowed to never lose on that turf again.
While the Bedford freshmen were mere bystanders to the event, they shared in their teammates’ agony, and committed themselves to living up to the expectations laid before them.
Sixty-one wins, zero losses and three Division II championships later, the Bulldogs made good on their promise, and then some.
Bedford capped an improbable 61-0 run over three undefeated seasons with a 12-10 win over Goffstown Tuesday night at Eustis Field, the same field the Bulldogs lost on three years ago.
The same field they haven’t lost on since.
“It’s incredible. The only word that sums up this streak is incredible,” Bedford coach Matt Guerard said. “These kids have earned every single win that we’ve gotten over the past three years. Every state championship that we’ve won in the past three years, they’ve all been earned. Nothing comes easy for these guys. They work hard on and off the field and this is just kind of the fruits of the labor for these guys. I’m very, very proud and happy for them.”
A state championship has been the goal each of the last three years. But what has taken place since that last defeat seemed unthinkable, even to the players who were there to witness every step of it.
“I would’ve never expected this,” senior goalkeeper Matt Howe said. “We could kind of read that we might’ve had something special in the locker room kind of brewing with the guys coming up and the guys that were already there that were freshmen, and we were pushing ourselves to get to this point. But no, we would’ve never guessed that it would’ve ended up at 61-0 and a three-peat.”
The Bulldogs attributed their run of dominance from everything to senior leadership, team chemistry, a new determined freshman class each year and dedication in the offseason.
“I made this a graduation requirement to myself personally when I started out the year and we were shoveling snow off the ground, off the field,” senior attack Dan Colella said. “It’s just so relieving.”
Bedford outscored its opponents by a whopping 288-84 margin in the regular season and postseason combined, and won 12 of its 21 games by eight goals or more; a fitting way to go out in its final season in Division II.
The Bulldogs will move up to Division I next year, and the idea of competing at the state’s highest level of lacrosse in already on their minds.
“All year long we’ve been thinking about Division I,” Guerard said. “We’re ready. We’ve been working hard over the last few years to get us to a point where we can be competitive when we hit the Division I level next year. We’re looking forward to it.”
Said junior attack Tyler Sullivan: “D-I is gonna be a lot harder. (Bishop Guertin) is definitely in our books to play, so I’m pretty pumped.”
Bedford looked like it was going to roll to another easy win Tuesday night after Colella scored a man-up goal with 11:42 to play to give the Bulldogs a commanding 12-5 lead.
But the No. 3 Grizzlies battled back with five unanswered goals to cut the deficit to two with 56.4 to play. Jack Carney and Bradley Chapdelaine each scored twice in that span.
A Goffstown comeback looked possible when Chapdelaine made it 12-9 with 2:48 to play, but Bedford controlled possession most of the way from there.
“Sometimes you can’t play perfect all the time, and (Tuesday) we weren’t perfect,” Guerard said. “They were a little better than us in areas because we were sluggish at times. But championship teams find a way to pull it out in the end.
“We never gave up the lead, and that was the key. If we didn’t give up the lead, we knew we could hang on.”
Colella and Sullivan were the Bulldogs’ leading one-two punch throughout the game. The duo connected on three goals, and played a role in 10 of them. Sullivan scored a game-high five goals with one assist; Colella had four goals and a game-high four assists.
Howe made seven saves in goal. His counterpart – Goffstown’s Colin Holt – made nine stops, including five in the second quarter.
The Grizzlies jumped to an early 1-0 lead with 8:22 left in the first quarter, but Bedford answered with four consecutive goals to take a 4-1 lead. Sullivan and Patrick Simpson scored two apiece in the run.
Goffstown ended the quarter with four straight goals to make it 4-4 after one, and Samuel Shearin scored a minute into the second to give the Grizzlies a 5-4 lead.
It was their last lead of the game. The Bulldogs rattled off eight consecutive goals capped off by a natural hat trick by Colella to take a 12-5 advantage.