When Stacey Bedell was rewriting the record books for Floyd last season, the braces he wears on his teeth were tinted green, the Colonials' primary school color. Tuesday night, the green was gone and only the silver remained. But the swift, shifty Massachusetts-bound running back is still turning out performances that are solid gold.
"Why do I still get the shivers every time he touches the ball?" East Meadow coach Vinny Mascia said from the Long Island sidelines as he watched Bedell dart and dash all over the field at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium in Tuesday night's Empire Challenge.
Mascia, who coached the linebackers for the victorious Long Island team, has seen Bedell's act before. In last year's Long Island Class I championship at Stony Brook, Bedell torched East Meadow for a record 412 yards in Floyd's thrilling 54-47 victory.
Bedell didn't come close to those numbers Tuesday night, but he had his moments. Most notable, he electrified the crowd early in the third quarter when he ran behind right tackle Omari Palmer, cut back across the middle and outran the field for a 92-yard touchdown that produced a 24-0 lead and, coming after L.I. goal-line stand, put New York City away for the night. Bedell, who toted what he called a "heavy" MVP trophy around after the game, finished with 137 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns.
At one point during the run, it appeared a New York defensive back might have had an angle to catch Bedell. But to those of us who have seen No. 21 run before, there was no doubt. Bedell was going, going, gone. You don't catch him from behind.
"As a coach, you see a millisecond of daylight and you have this weird feeling that no one can catch him," said Bedell's high school coach Paul Longo, the L.I. offensive coordinator. "Every time he's on a big stage, Stacey amazes. He's an electrifying player. At any moment he could go."
NYC found that out in the third quarter Tuesday night. "Tell them who you were running behind," yelled the affable Palmer, the Syracuse-bound 300-pounder. The irony wasn't lost on Palmer that he was running interference for a Floyd player, Longwood's arch rival in football.
Certainly, Bedell has had a special career. He got L.I. on the scoreboard first with a 1-yard run that was vintage Bedell. He started right, found traffic, and cut all the way back across the field to score. He made it 12-0 in the second quarter with another 1-yard run, this one a dive over the top.
"It's good to score any way, short or long," said Bedell, who had many more long runs then short bursts in his illustrious career that was capped by a 39-touchdown senior year in which he ran for 2,532 yards. For instance, in the game that still gives Mascia nightmares, Bedell scored on runs of 80, 51, 59 and 80 yards.
His second short TD run last night was set up by a 12-yard burst down to the 1 behind -- who else? -- Palmer.
"I looked at him and gave him the nod," Palmer said. "That meant, 'come behind me.' I crunched my guy."
Bedell said that on the 92-yard game-breaker, Palmer "picked up the safety. He kept telling me to follow him. I cut it back to the middle. I was looking at the [scoreboard] screen to see if they'd catch me."
Long Island's football fans know the answer to that one.