FOOTBALL: Bedford Upsets Saline, Snaps 52-Game SEC Winning Streak
Bedford scored on its first possession and then held on to defeat Saline, 7-0, in a defensive struggle at Hornet Stadium Friday.
The loss dealt a blow to Saline's SEC Red title hopes. Saline, 6-1 overall and 5-1 overall, still has a chance to share the conference title if the Hornets can defeat unbeaten Dexter next week.
It was a rare loss for the Hornets - one that had people scurrying for the record books. Saline's last SEC Red loss came to Bedford on Nov. 8 during the district championship. Earlier that year, on Sept. 27, the Hornets lost to Bedford at home. Since that playoff loss, Saline had won 52 straight games against SEC Red opponents, including playoff games.
The streak is over - and Saline still has a shot at a share of the SEC Red and the chance to have a good, long playoff run.
"Hey, there's no more steak. I use the analogy that if Alabama uses, it's like the world's crumbling down. If they win, it's just business as usual. And to a certain extent, that's been us," coach Joe Palka said. "There are a lot of people who think we have no shot now at Dexter. But we just know, in our locker room and in our hearts, that we've got a chance to play for multiple championships, and that's what it's all about. We could really be smiling at Dexter next Friday night if we do things right."
Dexter remains unbeaten after Friday's 52-13 win over Monroe.
Not much has changed about Bedford's game over the years. The Mules run the same defense and same option. What changes, from year to year, are the athletes and the team's ability to run the gameplan. In Trey Brueggeman, the Mules have a great running back, blcker, receiver and defensive player. Breuggeman ran for 30 yards on Bedford's first possession, including the final five for a touched down.
In familiar Mule fashion, the drive took 7:05 off the clock and the Mules led, 7-0.
It was the first time the Hornets had been behind in a game since week 1 against Hudsonville. Still, for a Hornet team that had scored 169 points in just the first two quarters of the last 4 games, a seven-point lead hardly seemed insurmountable.
Someone seemed out of sync with the Hornet offense all night. Star QB CJ Carr was sacked several times and spent much of the night trying to find open receivers while on the run. Carr threw to Caid Fox for a two-yard gain on Saline's first play from scrimmage. Two incomplete passes later, the Hornets punted.
Saline's defense made the necessary adjustments. The Hornets kept the Mules out of the end zone the rest of the way. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the Mules wouldn't give an inch to Saline.
Saline didn't get over midfield until the second quarter when James Rush scampered through traffic for a 38-yard gain to the Mule 34. The drive didn't get much further than that, though, and Carr was sacked on 4th and 8.
Late in the second, the Mules had a long drive that pressed deep into Saline territory. The Mules had a first down at the Saline 7. On first, Brueggemann rushed for four yards. On second, he rushed for 2 yards. On third down, Tate Bezeau brought him down for no gain.
On fourth, after three straight runs up the middle, Bedford pitched to Owen Przybylski, who tried sweeping to the outside. But Sam Kreuzer sniffed it out and dropped Przybylski in his tracks.
The Mules took their 7-0 lead into halftime. Another Hornet drive seemed stalled at midfield until, on 4th-and-11, Roman Laurio picked up 26 yards on a run to the Bedford 22. The Hornets were sent 15 yard back on a penalty. A strange sequence of penalties and then a sack pushed Saline back to their own 45. On 3rd-and-15, CJ Carr heaved a long bomb into the end zone for Laurio, who faced tight coverage. Laurio caught the ball - the officials ruled him out of bounds.
Laurio clearly thought he made the catch.
A look at still images after the game indicated that Laurio may have been right.
Facing 4th and long, the Hornets punted.
Bedford's next drive pushed into Saline territory when Sam Kreuzer knocked the ball from the clutches of Brueggemann. Ryan Stein recovered the fumble.
Again, however, the Hornets couldn't put together a drive.
The game looked it might be out of reach for Saline in the fourth quarter when Ryan Stein forced and recovered a fumble at the Saline 37 with just 2:55 to play. But again, Saline couldn't generate offense.
Coach Palka gave credit the Mules.
"It just seemed like Bedford was a half step faster than we were all night, for whatever reason that was," Palka said. "And therefor, we were out of sync and we missed on a lot of plays that we normally make."
The bright spot in this loss was the Saline defense.
"Hats off to (defensive coordinator) Duane (Wilson) and the defense. They caused turnovers and they gave us a chance all night until the final bell," Palka said.