TEMPERANCE — An eerie silence gripped Bedford Community Stadium Friday night as raw emotion hung in the air after the Mules saw a season marked by tragedy and greatness came to a sudden end.
Almost no one in the crowd of about 4,800 left the stadium, even after a 34-33 loss to Detroit Catholic Central in a Division 1 football regional final became a reality.
The 37 seniors took the tough loss particularly hard despite putting together the best season in school history. Quarterback Brad Boss and fullback Alec Hullibarger once again proved to be the key catalysts, accounting for all five touchdowns.
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The group also had to deal with the loss of senior teammate Colton Durbin who died after being in a car accident last month.
“The determination to be great and the tragedies that happened all brought us together,” said Hullibarger, who was one of Durbin's best friends. “All the hard work we put in as a family really paid off. We set a mark for everyone else that will come through Bedford. I'm so proud to be a part of this.”
Running the veer option attack to perfection, Boss finished with 182 rushing yards and scored on runs of 56 and 2 yards. Boss also connected on a 10-yard TD.
“We worked so hard and that's why this is so crushing to see it come to an end,” Boss said. “We gave it all we could. We just fell a little short. We put all our effort on the field and did all we could to win.”
The Mules (11-1) trailed powerhouse Detroit CC (10-2), which has won 10 state titles, 14-0 early before rallying to tie it just before halftime.
Then down 28-27, Bedford faked a punt on fourth-and-5 at its own 24 with six minutes left and converted.
“We were waiting to do that all game and we finally got them in the right set,” Bedford coach Jeff Wood said. “We knew it was going to be open. The kids executed it to perfection. We just scored too fast.”
Boss also picked up a fourth and 3 at the Shamrock 45 with 4:03 left. Hullibarger then scored on a 15-yard TD run to give the Mules a 33-28 lead with 1:56 left.
The Shamrocks then had a good kick return and four big pass plays to move quickly down the field and scored on a four-yard pass from Sean Birney to Nicholas Cococcetta with 25 seconds left to take a 34-33 lead.
With no timeouts, Bedford drove to the Shamrock 45 and Boss threw an interception on a desperation heave.
The standing-room-only crowd remained silent with some students in tears.
“That is the best team you've seen at Bedford in the last 70 years,” Wood said. “Our kids have been through something that no group of young men or women should have to go through. We went through that nightmare. The community cares about these kids. We stuck together and the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.”
With the game tied at 21, Boss broke off a 96-yard run on the last play of third quarter. Then on the next play Hullibarger scored on a two-yard run to give Bedford a 27-21 lead. The Mules missed the extra-point kick and it came back to cost them. A personal foul on the TD caused it to be a 35-yard attempt and it was blocked.
Detroit CC punched back scoring on a 30-yard pass play to take a 28-27 with 8:32 left.
Bedford finished with 446 total yards (306 rushing). Detroit finished with 424 yards (178 passing).
Hullibarger rushed for 136 yards and scored on runs of 16 and 15 yards.
The Shamrocks advance to the state semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
“[Bedford has] great athletes in key positions,” Detroit CC coach Tom Mach. “They did a great job handling us up front. They gave us all we could handle. It's real hard to tell who has the ball when they fake it in there.”
Down 14-0, Bedford scored two TDs over the final 2:39 of the second quarter to tie it going into the half. Boss's 56-yard run made it 14-7 and the Mules tied it on a 10-yard TD pass from Boss to Collin Carter, who ran a great out rout with 34 seconds left in the first half.
The scoring play came on fourth-and-2 at the Shamrock 44 with 2:49 left.
But Detroit took the first possession of the second half and marched 81 yards on 10 plays (all rushing) to take a 21-14 lead.
Then on fourth and 2 at the Shamrock 16, Hullibarger scored a TD to tie it at 21. Hullibarger also had a 33-yard run on the drive.
Birney completed 9 of 14 passes for 182 yards and three TDs. Connor Holton led the Shamrocks with 91 yards rushing on 18 carries and scored twice.
“This is a special group,” Boss said. “It's one of the hardest working groups to ever play on this field. It's been an honor to play with this group of guys.”
Wood said the reason why the loss hurts so much was because of the work his team put in and the adversity it overcame.
“We're upset. We should have won that football game. It's going to hurt for a while,” Wood said. “I told them how much I love them. They came together as a family and one unit. That's why they're crying and hurt.”