On to UNH

There was one thing Kurt Hines wanted Tyler Cibotti to remember last Saturday more than anything else during the Bedford High School football team’s Division I semifinal against Exeter.

No matter what Cibotti did, the backup quarterback wasn’t going to be Mike Vailas.

“We knew going in that Tyler was a different athlete than Mike (Vailas) and my concern was that he was going to try to be Mike Vailas and he can’t,” Hines said. “That’s not a knock on him. He is a better passer and he can be a good threat to run the ball, but obviously not the same versatile threat. He can see some opportunities.”

And Cibotti did see an opportunity, when he saw Taylor Larson breaking into a small window in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter. Cibotti made the throw, Larson made the catch and the No. 2 Bulldogs moved on to the championship game with a 14-7 win over the No. 3 Blue Hawks. Bedford (11-0) will now face top-seeded Pinkerton (11-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the University of New Hampshire.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Cibotti said. “This is what we’ve been working hard for all year. Our goal since the beginning of the year is to make it to the state championship.”

After stepping in for the injured Vailas and helping Bedford to the North Conference title over Concord last week, Cibotti finished 8 of 12 for 113 yards and a touchdown passing and rushing in the win over Exeter. Colin Cashin added 98 yards rushing on 18 carries and Larson caught four passes for 48 yards as the Bulldogs outgained Exeter 217-177.

Bedford’s defense held the Blue Hawks to just 65 yards in the second half, as Chris Kelley led Exeter with 48 yards rushing and quarterback Kyle Ball had the team’s lone touchdown.

“Speed for us has always been key defensively,” Hines said. “They were able to move the ball well and capitalize on some passes to the tight end. Ball did a heck of a job rolling out. Trying to contain him was tough.”

The Bulldogs took the lead early in the second quarter, when Cibotti ran it in from 2 yards out to finish off an 11-play, 70-yard drive. Bedford
converted three third downs on the drive, including a 22-yard run by Cashin on third-and-6 from the Exeter 49, and a 16-yard completion by Cibotti to Thomas Reynolds on third-and-8 from the 25.

But Exeter answered with a 15-play, 86-yard drive that ate up eight minutes and ended with Ball’s touchdown run. The Blue Hawks converted two third downs of their own and a fourth-and-5 from the Bedford 25 when Ball hit Nick Floodstrom for a 17-yard gain.

The Blue Hawks lined up for a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter, but the 27-yard attempt by Matthew Oppici was wide right giving Bedford the ball at its own 20 with 3:37 to go before the fourth. The Bulldogs quickly moved down field, as Cibotti hit Larson for a 36-yard gain and then found Reynolds for a gain of 11. A 26-yard run by Cashin gave Bedford a first down at Exeter’s 14, and runs of seven yards by Cibotti and six by Cashin gave the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the 1.

But on four tries from the 1, or closer, Bedford couldn’t score and Exeter took over on downs. That included fourth-and-goal, where Cibotti tried to change the play at the line.

“I have nothing but praise for Tyler Cibotti, but that was not a designed play,” Hines said. “I said keep it behind (center) Bobby (Heald), he’ll run you into the end zone. Whether we would have gotten it or not, I don’t know, but when he called the audible, he called for a little slide to our slot back and the back didn’t hear him.”

Bedford’s defense forced Exeter to punt and the offense went right back to work from the Blue Hawks’ 39. Cibotti hit Penaskovic for a diving, one-handed catch that gained 33 yards to the Exeter 11 and on third-and-9, the quarterback hit Larson for the game-winning touchdown.

Exeter got the ball back at its own 23 with 6:07 to play, and Bedford forced another punt, but on fourth down, the Bulldogs were called for roughing the kicker, giving the Blue Hawks a first down at their own 46.

But Exeter lost two yards on three plays, and on fourth-and-12, Ball was sacked by Eric Glassman for the second time on the drive, turning the ball over on downs. Exeter got the ball back again, this time with 1:36 to play, but on first down, Ball’s pass was intercepted by Dan Flynn to end the game.