Every team that qualifies for MIAA post-season competition has a mathematical chance for a state championship. And most of the time, the road to that crown goes through the number one seed.
The Bedford Buccaneers will have that opportunity on Friday night in the opening round of the Division 4 football tournament.
The Bucs will travel to powerhouse Duxbury High for a 7 p.m. match. Following Saturday’s 37-8 triumph at Waltham, the Bucs finished 17th in the MIAA power rankings. But three wins are the minimum, and Malden Catholic – ranked ahead of Bedford according to the math – does not qualify with a record of 2-6, so Bedford sneaks in at 16.
Bedford High’s 21-14 win on Sept. 15 at Malden Catholic turned out to be pivotal for both teams.
“We will prepare for them and we are going to give them our best,” said Head Coach Tom Tone about the top-ranked Dragons. Duxbury, perennially ranked near the top of the division, has won six straight since losing its opener.
This is the third straight year the Bucs have made the post-season as one of the top 16 teams in Division 4 statewide. And four years ago, there was no post-season because there was no regular season until Covid-19 relaxed the following spring.
The Bucs on Saturday afternoon finished the regular season at 5-3 after dealing the Waltham Hawks their worst defeat of the year. Bedford literally ran all over Waltham, with 42 plays on the ground for 243 yards. It was 80-plus degrees on the new Leary Field turf, and the Buccaneers balanced their running attack with quarterback Ryan McGrath, Ricky LaBoy, and Gil Galman carrying 11 times each. Drew Siwik added nine carries and led BHS rushers with 82 yards.
Bedford led 20-0 at halftime with short scoring runs by McGrath and Galman sandwiched around a 57-yard screen pass from McGrath to LaBoy, coming out of the backfield. The senior, one of the Dual County League’s true impact players for 2023, finished the day with 135 yards rushing and passing and two interceptions on defense.
“We’ve been getting some guys back and healthy,” Tone said. “The offensive line made some really good contributions. It was hot and we had to substitute a ton. We did a really good job up front.”
After Bedford opened the scoring, the Hawks marched down to the 10 but failed to score. Nelson Crawford made the solo tackle on fourth-and-goal at the one. The Hawks began their next possession at the Bedford 39, but LaBoy had an easy pick of Joey McCullough’s underthrow, with pressure applied by Siwik,
Bedford led 20-0 near the end of the half when Waltham’s Wes O’Connor turned a short catch into a 48-yard gain down the right sideline. Bedford junior Arnav Munjal chased him down at the three-yard line to save a touchdown. “That was a key play in the game,” Tone said, especially since Waltham scored on the second play of the third quarter.
The defense then responded with consecutive losses, followed by a missed field goal.
The play that iced the game turned out to be a bad snap on a Waltham punt. The football ended up beyond the endzone with about three minutes to play in the third quarter. The result was not only a two-point safety for Bedford but also the ensuing kickoff to the Bucs. They needed only six rushes and less than two minutes for a TD plus a two-point conversion, both carried by the sophomore Galman. It was a 10-point swing.
Galman scored the fifth Bedford TD on a one-yard run, following three consecutive rushes for 29 yards for LaBoy. He was briefly shaken up on a tackle at the one, so his teammate finished the drive.
“Especially in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t stop it,” Tone said of the running game. “It’s always my favorite time of the game when you are ahead and just trying to grind out the clock.”