WEST NEWBURY — Bedford coach Jack Belcher isn’t one to discuss the goals that motivate his football program, but Saturday, his shirt did all the talking for him.
On an unseasonably warm afternoon, Belcher took off his quarter-zip sweater in the first quarter to reveal a black Bedford football T-shirt. On the back, bold white letters read, “We Deserve What We Earn.”
And what his Buccaneers earned was a trip to the Division 4 Eastern Mass. title game, Bedford taking a 22-14 overtime victory over Pentucket.
“We set a goal at the beginning of the year,” said Belcher. “We don’t talk about it except in the locker room. What that is, I’m not going to [say], but it’s not hard to figure now.”
The Buccaneers play Dennis-Yarmouth at Brockton High Saturday at 3 p.m. for the right to appear in the Division 4 title game at Gillette Stadium.
After playing on defense for all but 2:13 of the second half, Pentucket (7-2) made a bid for the end zone with 4:34 left and the game tied at 14. Jeff Porter — who carried the load after senior running back DJ Engelke left early in the second quarter with an injury — ran on seven of eight snaps for 32 yards to get the Sachems past midfield.
But faced with fourth and 10 from the Buccaneer 46, the Sachems punted with 19.9 seconds on the clock. With the ball deep in its end, Bedford (8-1) elected for overtime and took a knee.
The Buccaneers were given the opening possession of OT. On third and goal from the 6, Olan Abner (157 total yards, two TDs) was hit for a loss of 4, placing the Buccaneers back at the 10 with one down remaining.
Electing to go for the touchdown, quarterback Joe Zampell (78 yards, two TDs) dropped back and hit Abner with a short screen pass. Abner sprinted for the left pylon and trotted into the end zone. The senior back then added the 2-point conversion for the 22-14 lead.
Bedford’s defense responded with its most important stand of the afternoon. On first down, Pentucket quarterback Ryan Kuchar peeled right, scanning for a Sachem in the end zone. With nowhere to throw, Bedford’s Dakota Fox Tree-McGrath knocked Kuchar out of bounds for a loss of 8.
Fox Tree-McGrath hit Kuchar in the backfield again, this time for a loss of 9. Needing the touchdown and ensuing 2-point conversion, the Sachems faced the tall task of going 27 yards on two plays.
Kuchar cut the distance almost in half with a 13-yard scramble on third down, but his fourth-down bid for Liam Corkery near the left pylon skipped in front of the wide receiver.
The Sachems took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter as Porter raced to a 73-yard touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, Bedford senior Tom Sands picked off Kuchar at the Sachem 37. The Buccaneers’ seven-play, 37-yard drive was capped by a 4-yard rush by Abner.
With the game tied, the Sachems responded as Porter took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted for an 83-yard return, reclaiming Pentucket’s 7-point lead with three minutes left in the half.
Zampell marched Bedford down the field for the tying score with just over a minute left before the break. The senior connected on a 26-yard TD strike to senior tight end Dan Fay.