CHAMBERSBURG - Entering its PIAA boys Class AA soccer semifinal against District 3 runner-up Lancaster Mennonite with just one loss, playing from behind was a task that Bedford has rarely faced.
Goalie James Jeffries and the defense have only been scored on 10 times all season, while the offense has put up 125 goals.
That changed on Monday at Chambersburg's Trojan Stadium as the Bisons fell to a superior Lancaster squad, 3-1.
"Not much," Bedford coach Jeff Thomas said when asked if he was surprised by anything the Lancaster Mennonite team did. "We knew what type of team they were, and they came out hard."
While the Blazers (20-8) controlled the first half with their fierce, attacking strategy, the Bedford defense did not break until sophomore forward Ian Burkhart beat Bedford's Zach Barbus to the ball and put it past Jeffries with 16:34 remaining in the half.
"We try to play a pro style and move the ball around quickly," Lancaster coach Fred Winey said. "Then when we find a crease, we try to strike and take advantage of the opportunity."
Lancaster continued to play the remainder of the half in the Bisons territory, and seemed to put the game out of hand with a back-breaking goal from Eric Bailey with just 19 seconds remaining. Bailey's goal gave the Blazers a lead that seemed to be insurmountable the way the game was being played.
"Being up two is always better than one, but there's something deflating about scoring against a team just before the half," Winey said. "2-0 gives the other team a bigger mountain to climb."
Bedford finally showed signs of life, placing its first shot on goal just seconds into the second half when Stephen Calhoun streaked down the left side and put a strong shot on goalie Jacob Hertzler that almost got between his legs.
The Bisons came out with a sense of urgency to start the half with their backs against the wall and visions of their season coming to an end.
"We started beating them to the ball and it gave us some chances," Thomas said. "We weren't able to do that much against them."
"Being up by two is tricky because if you give up a goal, then the other team is right back in it," Winey said. "We tried to stay grounded and focused to not let that happen."
It was the only real chance that the Bisons had to get back into the game, as their second and last shot by Sam Felix didn't come until there were 11 minutes left in the match.
Lancaster senior forward Viktor Kaltenstein made sure there was no doubt about the outcome, scoring on a pass from Bailey to send the Blazers to their second straight state championship game.
Bedford's Steven Stroup scored the team's lone goal with 4:28 left on the clock. The game came to a close with a chippy end, as the Bisons let out all of the emotions that come with a tough ending to a season. Stroup and 10 other Bison will not be returning next year.
"Coming into the season we had a lot of guys back and we knew we had an opportunity to make a run," Thomas said. "I told the guys I am proud of them and they should be proud of their accomplishments this year."
The Bisons finished with a 21-2 record and many memories en route to their first PIAA playoff win and their first ever trip to the state semifinals.
"Finishing this deep in to the playoffs leaves a lot of things to be proud of and we should hold our heads high," Thomas said. "Don't get me wrong, we would like to go the finals, but we accomplished a lot."
SCORE BY HALVES
Bedford0 1 - 1
Lancaster Mennonite2 1 - 3
First Half: LM-Burkhart (Dal), 16:34; LM-Bailey (Weaver), :19.
Second Half: LM-Kaltenstein (Bailey), 6:27; B-Stroup (unassisted), 4:28.
Records: Bedford (21-2); Lancaster Mennonite (20-8).