Every year, we hand the football championship previews off to the people who know these teams better than anyone, the coaches who face them during the regular season.
We asked three opposing head coaches to break down Saturday's championship game using blind quotes.
Pete Tarrier and Ian Melewski will be at Exeter High School on Saturday. We'll bring you all the highlights plus the post-game interview/celebration with the entire team.
Our scouting report is brought to you by our longtime partners at Manchester Community College!
(3) Bedford vs. (4) Londonderry
The two teams did not meet during the regular season.
One year after Colby Snow’s game-winning field goal won the state championship game for the Bedford Bulldogs against a previously undefeated Londonderry team, the same teams meet again for the title.
We asked three head coaches who faced the teams during the season to break down Saturday’s rematch.
Beginning with Zach Mathews' Bulldogs.
“ They are as fast and athletic as any team I can remember coaching against,” said one of the coaches we spoke to. “ It starts with their defense. Jake Sheff, Kevin Sheridan, and Spencer Henrichon play so tough up front that it allows their linebackers/secondary to be more aggressive.”
A fellow coach we spoke with agreed.
“ Their closing speed stood out to me when we faced them. The secondary, which is also very good, can play back and take away the deep ball because the guys up front don't need their help.”
“Their safeties are the guys we had to block on bubble screens because their cornerbacks play back so far.”
“ Jake Sheff at defensive end gave us a lot of trouble. They will hit you to the whistle and try to be as physical as possible. Both teams are similar in that regard.”
What about the Bedford offense?
“ Brody Helton was the best running back we saw all season. By a wide margin. His vision is incredible for a sophomore, and he has the physical abilities to be elite.”
“ Their line gives him the two to four-yard head start, but it’s all him once he gets past your defensive line, and his instincts in the open field are outstanding.”
Another coach talked about the Bulldogs playmakers.
“ They were not a dynamic offense last season. Look who they have added: Helton is now their lead back, (WR) Luke Soden didn't play last year, Bennett Mathews was a year away, and Danny Black has improved as a thrower. Their offense is elite, whereas last season, that defense kinda carried them.”
“ Danny Black has improved, and at the same time, he has benefited from all the talent around him.”
What about Jimmy Lauzon’s Lancers?
“ The first word that comes to mind when you mention Londodnery is aggressive. Everything they do has an aggressive tone to it.”
“ They hit you hard, and they finish blocks. I don't know what it is, but you see those kids with their helmets off; they look like every kid you see in the hallway. When they put that helmet on, though, something changes; it’s a mentality, and they all bring that attitude.”
“ Connor Williams at safety was a big difference maker when we played them. He was very aggressive and all over us.”
“ They have two great defensive ends in Cam Brutus and Alex Villa. They are both long and will try to disrupt Danny Black’s passing lanes on Saturday.”
“ To me, what makes them different is their role players. That coaching staff has a way of getting them to understand their job, and they execute better than any team we saw all year. Every good team has a few great players. To me, those lunch pail guys they have are the guys that beat you.”
“ Ty Miles is a special player, and you have hitters like Devin Boles playing behind that very good defensive line.”
What about the Londonderry offense?
“ They have faith in all four quarterbacks, allowing them to run different variations out of the offensive sets.”
“ They might run counter or jet sweep with a running back, a slot receiver, or a wide receiver. Last week, they used Miles out of the backfield. They are a difficult team to prepare for because you don't know who is getting the ball.”
“ Connor Williams is patient at QB. Villa gives them a power back at QB, and Sam Ogden is their best passer. They will utilize the quarterback who fits what they want to run.”
“ I think the four-quarterback system benefits them more than frustrates you as an opposing team.”
What will you be watching for in the rematch?
“ The emotions of a game like this and how the kids handle it. These two fan bases are not used to losing.”
“ They are both crowds that can get a little out of control. So, does it affect the players on the field? If one call goes against them and the crowd overreacts, will that affect the kids?”
“ These are two very good teams who play very aggressively and with a lot of emotion. They both play on the edge, so I’d watch how that plays out.”
So who wins on Saturday?
“ I’m going with Londonderry, 24-20.”
“ I picked Bedford a year ago because they were just on a roll that I didn't think anyone could stop. For the same reasons, I’m going with Londonderry this time, 28-24.”
“ I’m going to go with Bedford, 17-14. Another field goal wins it.”
My pick: I will go with Bedford in an instant classic.