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Published: Saturday, 9/26/2009

Bedford Mules pull shocker over No. 6-ranked Pioneer

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Don't be surprised if Bedford fans expect the sun to rise from the west, not the east, this morning.

After all, the Mules' 28-21 home victory over Ann Arbor Pioneer Friday night before 4,500 fans was filled with the unexpected, the unusual and unexplainable.

Who could have figured that Bedford, which had thrown for a grand total of 46 yards in its first four games, would pass for 187 yards and two scores? Who would have expected that the Mules would limit the Pioneers' spread offense to just 281 yards of total offense, including just 30 yards in the final quarter?

And the biggest surprise was that the Mules, who had just 70 rushing yards until the game's final minutes, found a way to get the ground game untracked and pull off the upset?

It all happened in a victory that improved Bedford's record to 4-1 overall and 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference, good for first place. Ann Arbor Pioneer, which was ranked sixth in Division 1 in Michigan, fell to 4-1 and 2-1 in the SEC.

"Not to sound cocky, but we're a confident team," said senior Zach Messer, who caught a pair of TD passes and ran for a third score. "We believed all along we could win [this game]."

The Mules nearly doubled their season passing total on the game's third play. Facing a third-and-16 on the 27, junior quarterback Jared Kujawa found Messer behind the Pioneers' defense. Messer caught a jump pass and raced 73 yards for a touchdown that put Bedford up 7-0.

"Coach [Jeff] Wood called the play and said, 'Look for the safety to bump up,'" Kujawa said. "The safety bumped up and Messer leaked by him - and was wide open."

But Ann Arbor Pioneer took the following kickoff and drove 71 yards in 10 plays, tying the game on a 9-yard TD run by Terrell Moran.

The Pioneers used a short field to score again, taking just three plays to score after forcing Bedford to punt from its own end zone. Moran again did the honors on a 6-yard scoring run.

Just before halftime the Mules drove to the Pioneers' 27, where Bedford faced a fourth-and-10. And the Mules again went to the air, with Kujawa using a swing pass to Messer down the left sidelines; Messer cut back towards the center of the field and scored.

This time the extra-point attempt by Brendan Renius hit the upright, making the score 14-13 at the half.

In the third quarter the Pioneers seemed to take command when Miles Sorise capped an eight-play drive with a 1-yard TD plunge with just 54 seconds left.

But the Mules used a 48-yard pass from Kujawa to Erik Jones on the final play of the third quarter and a 25-yard pass from Kujawa to Troy Przybylek on the first play of the final period to move to the 1, and Messer scored on a two-yard sweep two plays later.

Jacob Krueger caught a two-point conversion pass from Kujawa to tie the game.

The game-winning drive began when the Mules got the ball on the Pioneers' 44 with 4:16 left. The Bedford ground game took over as Kujawa carried the ball on six of the eight plays, including the game-winning 2-yard scoring run.

"I was really pumped for the last drive," Kujawa said. "With their tackles pinching, I was reading that and keeping the ball."

Kujawa finished with 71 yards rushing on 16 carries while completing 6-of-10 passes for 187 yards. The Mules had 114 rushing yards on 41 attempts.

"They [seemed to have] 12 guys on the line, so it was hard to block everyone," Wood said of his team's unusual reliance on the pass. "All we needed was a seam, but we never got it.

"[But Jared Kujawa] told me the midline was coming open on the final drive, and he was exactly right. He saw how tired they were getting up front, and he kept telling me, 'midline, midline.'"

It added up to one of the biggest wins in the school's history.

"That was just a great win," Kujawa said. "It was a huge win against a state-ranked team for first place in the SEC. It was a lot of fun."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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