BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Bridgewater State University football team scored a season-high 44 points as the Bears posted a 44-28 victory over visiting UMass Dartmouth in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) matchup on Homecoming Saturday at Swenson Field.
The host Bears improve to 5-2 on the season and 4-1 in the MASCAC, while Corsairs fall to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Bridgewater is now 19-12 all-time versus UMass.
BSU junior running back Aidan Silva (Swansea, Mass.) rushed for a career-high 116 yards and two touchdowns. Silva was one of four different Bears to find the end zone via the run.
Senior wide receiver Jack Lavanchy (Walpole, Mass.) hauled in 12 receptions for a season-high 185 yards the Bears, while junior wideout T.J. Hairston (Watertown, Mass.) grabbed a career-high eight catches for a career-best 111 yards.
BSU junior quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.) completed 19 of 23 (82.6%) pass attempts for 292 yards. He also rushed for 24 yards and a score.
Bridgewater racked up a season-high 543 yards of total offense, 356 yards through the air and 187 on the ground. The 356 passing yards eclipsed the school single-game mark of 326 set in 2014 versus Fitchburg State. The Bears also notched 31 first downs in the game, went 7-for-14 on third down, 2-for-3 on fourth, and possessed the ball for a little over 37 minutes (37:04).
Bridgewater overcame an outstanding effort by UMD sophomore receiver Leroy Brown (Milton, Mass.). Brown grabbed six passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. UMass sophomore quarterback Stephen Gacioch (Tiverton, R.I.) threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns with a pair of interception. Gacioch also rushed for 46 yards and a score.
UMass registered 354 yards of total offense with just 63 coming on the ground. The Corsairs entered the game averaging 175.6 rushing yards. UMD was also just 3-for-10 on third down.
The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter as the score was 7-7 at the end of one. D'Emilia capped off a six-play, 75-yard drive with a ten-yard touchdown run. The Corsairs answered with a four-play, 65-yard drive as Gacioch punched it in from five yards out.
The Bears put together a 12-play, 67-yard drive with freshman quarterback Brad Thiltgen (Cumming, Georgia) scoring on an eight-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. After a change of possession, Silva capped off a nine-play, 44-yard drive with a six-yard TD run. The point after try was no good as Bridgewater led 20-7 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
On the ensuing possession, Gacioch connected with Brown on a 60-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive as the Corsairs cut the deficit to 20-14. Bridgewater responded with a six-play, 60-yard drive with junior running back Nick Santavicca (Yorktown Height, N.Y.) rushing for a two-yard touchdown as the Bears extended the lead to 27-14.
A 59-yard scoring strike from Gacioch to Brown pulled the Corsairs to within a score at 27-21 with 3:25 left to play in the second quarter. The Bears marched right downfield on the ensuing possession and had a first-and-goal at the UMD three. Two plays later, freshman cornerback Marlon Scott (Taunton, Mass.) picked off a D'Emilia pass in the end zone and returned it all the way to the BSU 41. The Corsairs attempted a long pass with just seconds left on the clock, but the pass was broken up as time expired in the half.
After the teams exchanged two punts apiece to start the third quarter, Gacioch hooked up with Brown on a 57-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore kicker James Tooker (Harwich, Mass.) knocked home the PAT to give the Corsairs their first and only lead of the game, 28-27. UMass, however, would not score again.
Silva answered with a one-yard TD plunge to cap off a four-play, 74-yard drive as the Bears jumped back in front, 34-28. Bridgewater would add a pair of fourth quarter scores on a Santavicca six-yard TD run and a Jacob Crear (North Attleboro, Mass.) 24-yard field goal to put the finishing touches on the 44-28 win.
Sophomore linebacker Michael Rosa (Uxbridge, Mass.) paced the BSU defensive effort with ten tackles (seven solo) including a sack to go along with a pass breakup, while senior defensive tackle Chris Gemayel (Dedham, Mass.) notched six tackles (four solo) with 2 ½ going for loss as well as a pass breakup.
BSU freshman linebacker Steven Silvia (Dighton, Mass.) and junior cornerback Stephen Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.) each recorded fourth quarter interceptions. Puzzo also finished with three pass breakups.
Sophomore safety Jacob Burkhead (Plymouth, Mass.) led all players with 11 tackles (ten solo) with one for loss and a forced fumble. Junior linebacker Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass.) registered nine tackles (six solo) with one for loss, while senior linebacker Samuel Ejiasi (Forney, Texas) notched seven solo tackles with two for loss including a sack. Scott finished with six tackles (five solo) with one for loss, an interception and pass breakup.
The MASCAC schedule continues for both teams next Saturday. The Bears travel to Western Connecticut State University for a six o'clock game with the Colonials, while the Corsairs entertain Worcester State University at 2:30.
Notes: Lavanchy now has 2,511 receiving yards in just three seasons at Bridgewater State. He is third on the Bears' all-time list behind Matt Green (2,765 yds.) and BSU Hall of Famer Andy Macaione (2,642 yds.)…D'Emilia (2,894 yds.) moved into seventh place on the Bears' all-time passing list.