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Football experience pays off in lacrosse for Bedford players

Apr. 19—BEDFORD HIGH SCHOOL'S football team proved its toughness by winning last fall's Division I state championship. This spring, many of those Bulldog gridders are displaying that same toughness, combined with skill and experience, in another physical sport.

The Bedford lacrosse team, off to a 3-0 start, beat visiting Pinkerton Academy on Monday for the first time since 2015. The Bulldogs now face their biggest challenge to date: at three-time defending D-I champion Bishop Guertin on Tuesday (6 p.m.) at Stellos Stadium in Nashua.

"I think that having multi-sport athletes definitely helps us," said Bedford senior captain and defenseman Kevin Sheridan, who won the Gatorade New Hampshire Football Player of the Year award as a tight end/defensive end. "A lot of us have played both sports forever ... I think it definitely helps — one, by staying conditioned and, two, ... keeping the bond growing with your teammates."

Lacrosse has increasingly become a year-round sport for high school players but Bedford has six on its varsity roster who also play for the football team: Sheridan, sophomores Bennett Mathews (midfielder in lacrosse, wide receiver/safety in football) and Brody Helton (midfielder, running back/linebacker), seniors Spencer Henrichon (defenseman, offensive/defensive tackle) and Dylan Soden (defensive midfielder, tight end/linebacker/kicker) and freshman Sam Barad (attackman, wide receiver/safety).

The school's junior varsity roster lists three football players: sophomores Matt Benn (goalie, center/defensive tackle) and James Tamulevich (defenseman, guard/linebacker) and freshman Camden Santos (defenseman, running back/linebacker).

His football players excel at lacrosse's physical aspects, said second-year Bedford lacrosse coach Drew Bourdeau.

"Spencer Henrichon, Kevin Sheridan, Brody, Bennett — all those guys, you're not out-groundballing them," Bourdeau said. "They're willing to eat a slash, (they're) going and picking up a ground ball in a pile — they are tough as nails, all those kids."

Matthews, whom Pinkerton coach Steve Gaudreau considers one of the best midfielders in the state alongside Helton, started playing lacrosse in second grade and contact football in sixth grade (he played flag before that). Sheridan started playing both sports when he was about 5 years old.

Sheridan and Matthews, both All-Division I selections in football and lacrosse last season, said their football experience has helped them with their footwork for lacrosse. Running routes at tight end and using his feet to beat offensive linemen on defense in football, Sheridan said, helps him match the pace of players he defends in lacrosse.

Matthews, whose dad Zach coaches the Bedford football team, said playing safety this past fall helped him improve his dodging ability and his footwork while on defense in lacrosse.

Said Sheridan: "If you keep your feet under you, if you're able to run through contact, it's going to make it a lot easier than putting all your weight into it and falling."

Sheridan, who will continue his football career at Stonehill College in the fall, Henrichon, senior captain Tristan Kerr and junior captain Brian Riccio have been Bedford's defensive starters for the past three years. Kerr and Riccio also play hockey — another physical sport.

Matthews considers the defensive unit to be a team strength. He's helped by practicing against that group, he said.

Bedford outscored its first three opponents, 52-15. The Bulldogs shut out Pinkerton in the fourth quarter.

Gaudreau said any New Hampshire team would struggle to score in a settled six-on-six situation against the Bulldogs.

"They've had the same guys starting on defense for three years and they have a lot of guys that are 6-foot-4, 6-foot-3 and big, athletic Division I football players and Division I lacrosse players," Gaudreau said. "In my opinion, they're up there with the best defense in the state."

Sheridan said Bedford's football/lacrosse players are close. The group hangs out frequently even during offseasons and enjoys a good Chipotle run, Sheridan said.

Matthews said their bond helps create a family atmosphere within both teams. That group's experience in close games, playoff games and winning championships on the gridiron is also an asset in the spring, Sheridan said.

Bourdeau, who played collegiately at Saint Anselm, said Bedford lost four one-goal games last season, including its 9-8 quarterfinal loss to Merrimack. Bedford has never reached a Division I final and last made a title-game appearance when it won its third straight Division II championship in 2014.

The Bulldogs fell in the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons and lost, 9-7, to BG in the 2021 semifinals.

"Those guys, they not only want to win, but they know how to win and they know what a successful team looks like," Bourdeau said.

ahall@unionleader.com