Bedford gets better of Hanover in D-1 boys soccer championship match 

Hanover High players, from left, Ian Press, Andrew McGuire, Zach Tracy and Sam Calderwood react after losing the NHIAA Division I final, 4-0, to Bedford on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High players, from left, Ian Press, Andrew McGuire, Zach Tracy and Sam Calderwood react after losing the NHIAA Division I final, 4-0, to Bedford on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News —Tris Wykes

Hanover High's Ryder Hayes, right, embraces associate head coach Sam Farnham after their team's 4-0 loss to Bedford in the NHIAA Division I title game on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High's Ryder Hayes, right, embraces associate head coach Sam Farnham after their team's 4-0 loss to Bedford in the NHIAA Division I title game on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Hanover High's Zach Tracy, left, races alongside Bedford's Griffin Middleton during the NHIAA Division I final on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Bedford won, 4-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High's Zach Tracy, left, races alongside Bedford's Griffin Middleton during the NHIAA Division I final on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Bedford won, 4-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Tris Wykes

Hanover High's Carter Guerin (10) is surrounded by Bedford opponents during the NHIAA Division I teams' playoff final on Nov. 4, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Bedford won, 4-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High's Carter Guerin (10) is surrounded by Bedford opponents during the NHIAA Division I teams' playoff final on Nov. 4, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Bedford won, 4-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Bedford High's Eli Kaplo (4) and Hanover's Sean Smith (9) jostle for the ball in front of the Bears' Charlie Forbush (12) during the NHIAA Division I teams' championship game on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Bedford won, 4-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Bedford High's Eli Kaplo (4) and Hanover's Sean Smith (9) jostle for the ball in front of the Bears' Charlie Forbush (12) during the NHIAA Division I teams' championship game on Nov. 3, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Bedford won, 4-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 11-05-2023 7:32 AM

NASHUA, N.H. — Coughs, sniffles and weeping emanated from the Hanover High bench area Friday as darkness fully fell on Stellos Stadium.

It was difficult to determine which players were sick and which were overcome by the Bears’ 4-0 loss to Bedford in the NHIAA Division I final. In many cases, of course, a teenager was doubly afflicted.

Ragged even before kickoff, top-seeded Hanover played without the passion and energy shown during its semifinal defeat of Manchester Memorial. It was the Bears’ third consecutive loss in the championship game and a bitter pill to swallow for one of the most talented lineups assembled in the program’s 62-year history.

“We didn’t come out as strong as we hoped to,” said Hanover midfielder Ryder Hayes. “We were playing to the occasion and not to the game. We were starstruck by it being the state championship and having all the fans here.

“We got nervous and didn’t trust ourselves… It can happen to anyone, not being mentally tough enough to come out the way you want to.”

Hanover coach Rob Grabill, an 18th-year bench boss who’s been on the opposite side of those championship emotions as recently as 2019, provided postgame embraces and perspective.

“What we built over the season can’t be taken away,” he said. “It feels terrible now for all of us, watching kids you love with their hearts broken. But it won’t take long for them to appreciate that they played beautiful soccer and just weren’t able to answer the call tonight.”

Hanover’s first 20 minutes were flat-out bad. Beaten to balls, missing on passes and conceding too much space to Bedford, the Bears allowed the contest’s first goal during the 19th minute.

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A 40-yard free kick from the right wing dropped off a cluster of players leaping to head it in the box and landed flat. Bulldog Elliot Texeira knocked it inside the right post.

Sixth-seeded Bedford (15-5) doubled its lead and effectively won the game 12 minutes after halftime. Gavin Diaz’s left-footed shot from the center of the penalty area deflected off a defender, sending Hanover goalkeeper Wyatt Seelig one way and the ball another.

With 23 minutes remaining, Hanover’s Andrew McGuire hit the crossbar with a hard shot. On his knees after, McGuire punched the artificial turf. The Bears’ frustration built from there.

“Bedford was again the better team,” said Grabill, whose squad lost the teams’ regular-season meeting and who noted that Friday’s outcome was the first time Hanover (17-3) had lost to its rival in four postseason games.

“We’ve got four or five kids battling sickness all week but who knows how much external factors like that matter?” Grabill said. “Still, it took us forever to get into the game; our first 20 minutes were awful. Then we hit the post with a shot just before their second goal.

“This is such an interesting, cruel sport.”

Included among Hanover’s graduating seniors are top players Seelig, dynamic twins Carter and Will Guerin, Hayes, Zach Tracy, Sam Calderwood and Ian Press. As always, however, Hanover will retain a wealth of talent of which other Upper Valley can only dream.

“It’s like farming,” Grabill said. “Some years, you get a frost that kills your apple (harvest) and you can only shake your head and get the seed catalogs and start again.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.