BEDFORD – The Bedford High School boys lacrosse team wants to be sitting at the top of the Division II standings when the playoffs begin in a little under three weeks.
The Bulldogs made a big step toward making that happen on Friday.
Bedford overcame a bumpy first half and did just enough in the second half to beat St. Thomas Aquinas 8-6 in a battle of undefeated teams. Thanks to Bow’s overtime loss to Goffstown, also on Friday, Bedford (9-0 in Division II) sits all alone at the top of the standings.
“It was (big) because we’re playing an undefeated team, so we knew that if we won, we’d have a pretty good chance of finishing the season at No. 1,” Bedford coach Matt Guerard said. “We’re sitting at the top and that’s exactly where we want to be.”
Taylor Wallace led the Bulldogs with three goals and Nate Larrivee had two goals and two assists, as Bedford scored a goal in the opening minute of each of the first three quarters. After falling behind in the second quarter, the Bulldogs outscored the Saints 6-2 the rest of the way.
Matt Howe made 16 saves for Bedford while Jared Hornsby (one assist), Tyler Sullivan and Aaron Palys each had a goal.
“Matt (Howe) is a sophomore and he plays like he’s a senior,” Guerard said of his goalie. “He’s very composed in the goal and he sees the ball very well. When he starts making saves, it gives him confidence. For a young kid to have confidence like he does, it’s definitely something that’s going to help us moving forward.”
St. Thomas (8-1) got three goals from Noah Schwaegerle and two from Jake Geppert whole goalie Sebastian Olsen stopped 15 shots. But Saints coach Barry Katz felt his team made too many mistakes to have a chance at beating Bedford.
“For the majority of the game, we played a great game,” he said. “You can’t have lapses in judgment and you can’t make mistakes against a team like Bedford. They will eat your lunch if you do and that’s what happened.”
Bedford opened the game looking like it was ready to dominate. The Bulldogs scored just 39 seconds in, on a tough-angle shot by Jared Hornsby, to take a 1-0 lead, but from there, Bedford took its foot off the gas for most of the first half.
“Sometimes when you score that first goal, you go into cruise control,” Guerard said. “You’ve got to have that mentality when you get one that you want to get that second and third and so on. We got a big first goal and then give up the next one and make it a game.”
It took St. Thomas six minutes to tie the game, even though the Saints were controlling play and had good opportunities to score.
“We spotted them one and said let’s settle down and play some ball,” Katz said.
Geppert tied the game with 5:20 left in the first when he collected a ground ball in front of the Bedford goal and beat Matt Howe. The quarter ended with the game tied, but Bedford scored in the first minute of the second quarter, this time just 37 seconds in on a goal by Wallace, to take a 2-1 lead.
St. Thomas took a little more than three minutes to tie the game this time, as Schwaegerle scored to make it 2-2, and then added another goal with 5:40 left in the half to give the Saints a 3-2 lead.
But Bedford came right back, scoring less than a minute later. Larrivee found Palys to the left of the goal and Palys sent a laser shot that seemed to surprise Olsen into the back of the net.
Larrivee gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with 1:40 left in the half. His shot bounced hard off the turf and caught the inside of the crossbar before ricocheting back onto the field. The closest official was standing even with the goal and was in perfect position to signal the score.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring in the second half, this time 47 seconds in, on a goal by Wallace that put Bedford up 5-3. The Saints took a couple of penalties midway through the third, and Bedford took advantage, stretching the lead to 6-3 before Geppert’s second goal cut the lead to two with 7:17 left in the quarter and Schwaegerle made it a one-goal game 26 seconds later.
It was still a one-goal game midway through the fourth, despite the pressure the Saints had been putting on Howe and the Bedford defense. Wallace finally gave the Bulldogs some breathing room with his third goal, and 36 seconds later, Larrivee add another score to make it 8-5 with 5:33 to play.
St. Thomas cut the lead back to two on a goal by Christian Going with 1:21 left, but the Saints couldn’t get any closer.
“They took advantage of the mistakes we made,” Katz said. “A couple mistakes in the fourth, a couple of blown assignments on defense, a couple looking the wrong way on offense, but for the most part, we played a great game.”