Roger Brown's First and 10: Central defense stepped up when needed
Bedford, which entered the contest averaging 38 points per game, was held to two touchdowns: a 43-yard run by Michael Vailas on Bedford's first play from scrimmage, and a 14-yard TD pass from quarterback Dan Colella to Nate Jaeger with 51.9 seconds to play. Jaeger's touchdown was set up by a kick return that gave Bedford possession on the Central 22-yard line.
"After that first play, absolutely amazing defense," Central coach Ryan Ray said. "Our defense really has played well at times this year for very long stretches, but we always seem to stub our toe and give up some big plays and do some things smart teams shouldn't do. So we've seen our defense have the ability to do that. We just have to do that for four quarters to keep playing football."
Although Londonderry (4-5), Spaulding of Rochester (6-3) and No. 9 Exeter (6-3) are also in the eight-team playoff field, No. 2 Bedford is not. The Bulldogs completed their season with a 7-2 record, but finished behind Concord and Central in the Division I North standings. Two teams from each conference qualify for postseason play.
Despite Saturday's 36-6 loss to Plymouth, Merrimack Valley will be participating in the playoffs for the first time since the school first fielded a varsity team in 2002.
Merrimack Valley secured a spot when Trinity of Manchester beat St. Thomas of Dover 43-28 Friday night. St. Thomas kicker Hayden Middleton converted a dropkick on an extra-point attempt in the loss.
Here are the matchups for next weekend's Division II conference championship games: East: Merrimack Valley (7-2) at Portsmouth (8-1); North: Kennett (5-4) at Plymouth (8-1); South: Trinity (7-2) at Windham (8-1); West: Sanborn (5-4) at Monadnock (9-0)
Newport earned the final playoff berth in Division III by beating Mascoma Valley, 42-14, Saturday.
Here are the matchups for next weekend's Division III conference championship games: East: Bishop Brady (4-4) at Epping-Newmarket (4-4); North: Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough (4-4) at Gilford (6-2); South: Bow (7-1) at Pelham (8-0); West: Newport (6-2) at Stevens (6-2).