LOYSBURG - After a pair of false start penalties left Bedford facing a first and goal from the 20-yard line down six points in overtime, the general consensus among the media in the Panther Community Stadium press box was that Karns City was going to survive a scare from the upset-minded Bisons.
In fact, not many people have given the Bisons much credit at all despite three straight victories, including a pair of playoff wins heading into Friday.
Perhaps that's because Bedford went just 3-17 the past two years and began this season 1-5.
But that Bisons squad is gone.
The team that took the field Friday didn't expect to fail. The seniors who struggled through the past two seasons have come together and learned to win. That was never more evident than when Kyle Deneen made something out of nothing in the third overtime while being tackled on a two-point conversion play. The senior flipped the ball ahead to Tanner Ripple, also a senior, just before falling to his knees in what proved to be the game-winning score after the Bisons stopped Dylan Hipple on Karns City's attempt at two.
"We're on top of the world; this is just an amazing feeling," Deneen said. "I just kind of threw the ball out while I was being tackled. I just want to keep playing like we're playing and win the whole thing."
Though Bedford's 28-26 win in triple overtime was just the first round of the Class AA PIAA tournament, the amount of people who would deny the Bisons at least have a shot certainly dwindled after the game.
The win gives Bedford's 15 seniors another game and extends its head coach's career. Dan Smith is stepping down at the end of the Bisons' season, but it seems his players won't let him finish his career - one that almost went a different direction.
"Thirty-four years ago, I had a job interview at Karns City," Smith said. "They hired another person, but it could have been me over there coaching against Bedford tonight. The tables turned differently, but I contribute this to my kids never giving up, never losing the faith and this is just gravy to go along with the Thanksgiving stuffing."
Another senior that played a large role in Bedford's victory was Wesley Tritt. The defensive end recovered a pair a fumbles and blocked what would have been a game-winning extra point by Karns City with 6:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"This makes all the struggles worth it," Tritt said. "We've struggled a lot, a lot and to come back like this and make a push in the playoffs is quite an accomplishment for us.
"For me, as a senior, just to go out this way is special."
The chance to go out with a special feeling had to seem remote six weeks into the season. After losing five of its first six games and 17 of 20 their first two years, Bedford and its seniors finally came together.
"We always knew we had a talented team, but we never played as a team," Deneen said. "We all came together after that losing streak and pulled things together, and right now we're playing great."
One of the changes involved Deneen moving from starting quarterback to wideout while seeing limited time under center. While some kids might have handled the situation badly, Deneen accepted his new role quickly.
"Kyle Deneen lost his starting quarterback job, but he never stopped working," Smith said. "He made the call down there on the extra point. He made a heads up play by flipping it to Tanner Ripple, and I just can't say enough about how great these kids are."
Regardless of how their season ends, Bedford's seniors will now be remembered as winners, not the squad that struggled to come together their first two seasons and a half.
Mike Boytim can be reached at 946-7521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.