DURHAM, N.H. — For most of the second half, it seemed like Pinkerton was on the verge of striking.
The Astros caused a pair of turnovers in the third quarter, turned them both into touchdowns and were trailing by just one score heading into the fourth quarter.
But Pinkerton turned the ball over twice inside the Bedford 30-yard line in the final 10 minutes, and fell to the top-seeded Bulldogs 28-14 in the Division 1 state championship game on Saturday at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Field.
“Our kids played hard,” said Astros coach Brian O’Reilly. “But, in a championship game, you can’t waste opportunities. We missed a few and that really hurt us. And you can’t do that against a team as good as Bedford.”
It was the second straight season Pinkerton fell short in the title game. The Astros lost to Winnacunnet last fall on the same UNH field.
“Our kids did everything we asked them to do,” said O’Reilly, whose Astros beat Bedford for their last state title in 2014. “There are no regrets. You just have to tip your hat to Bedford. They played a very good game, and they are the state champion.”
The Bulldogs started quick. They held Pinkerton to a three-and-out to start the game, then marched 75 yards on 15 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
The Astros responded with a drive to the Bedford 19, before a pass was intercepted on fourth down. After another Bedford touchdown, Pinkerton drove to the Bulldog 20, but turned the ball over on downs.
“Those two blown opportunities in the first half hurt a lot,” said O’Reilly. “You just don’t want to miss chances. Then they kept the ball away from us.”
The Astros, however, came out in the second half and began to turn the tide.
On the opening kickoff of the third, an Astro knocked the ball loose and Evan Wilson pounced on it for a turnover. Four plays later — on fourth and goal — Gannon Fast plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 14-7.
Bedford responded with a score but, on the Bulldogs’ next possession, Pinkerton’s Robbie Fahey knocked the ball out of the QB’s hands and Fast recovered the fumble. Two plays after that, Fast scored his second 1-yard touchdown and the score was 21-14.
Unbeaten Bedford, however, was able to respond with a touchdown early in the fourth.
“That drive really gave us the boost we needed to finish the game,” said Bedford running back Harrison LeGoullon (2 TDs). “Pinkerton is a really good team with a very deceptive offense and a lot of good athletes.
They also have a very good defense, but this was our game.”
Pinkerton then drove the ball to the Bedford 30 again, but the drive ended with an interception.
After a defensive stop, the Astros drove to the Bulldog 18-yard line with 1:24 to play, but turned the ball over on downs again.
Bedford then ran the clock out.
“We did what we could,” said O’Reilly. “They ran the ball so well. They have power runners. We have a very good defense, but we could not get them off the field.” Astros linebacker Jackson Clark — the transfer from Central Catholic — was all over the field with 16 tackles.
Fellow linebacker Jake MacInnis added 11 tackles and a forced fumble and Brady Day had 10 stops.
Leading the Pinkerton offense was running back Gennaro Marra, who ran for 103 yards on 12 carries. Fast ran for the two touchdowns.
“We only moved the ball sporadically,” said O’Reilly. “They really moved the ball. We had a few big plays, then would get nothing. We went through every aspect of our playbook, but they were able to hold us to minimum gains.
“I tell our kids all the time that, when the game is over and you can say, ‘I did everything I could, I didn’t take a play off and I left everything on the field,’ then you just have to tip your hard to the other team.
They were the better team today.”
Bedford 28, Pinkerton 14
Pinkerton (9-3): 0 0 14 0 — 14
Bedford (12-0): 7 7 7 7 — 28
DIVISION 1 CHAMPIONSHIP
B — Harrison LeGoullon 1 run (Madison Lucontoni kick), 2:20
B — Tim Greene 25 pass from Thomas Morgan (Lucontoni kick), 6:05
P — Gannon Fast 1 run (Brandon Roy kick), 10:15
B — LeGoullon 2 run (Lucontoni kick), 7:08
P — Fast 1 run (Roy kick), 5:34
B — Ryan Toscano 13 run (Lucontoni kick), 10:40
RUSHING: Pinkerton (38-180) — Gennaro Marra 12-103, Gannon Fast 12-33, Nick Lombard 11-33, Aiden Goujon 3-11; Bedford (45-251) — Ryan Toscano 26-185, Thomas Morgan 10-39, Harrison LeGoullon 7-24, Lucien Mumpini 2-2
PASSING: Pinkerton — Aiden Goujon 4-15-3, 70; Bedford — Thomas Morgan 13-21-0, 149
RECEIVING: Pinkerton — Michael Sarette 1-47, Aidan Conroy 1-13, John Rosario 1-9, Gennaro Marra 1-1; Bedford — Harrison LeGoullon 6-56, Tim Greene 4-83, Lucien Mumpini 2-2, Ryan Donahue 1-8