By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The calendar may say it’s only mid-September, but important conference football games are already on tap for Bridgewater State University and Stonehill College.
The Bears (1-1) open the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference schedule on Saturday by traveling to Framingham State University, the preseason pick to win the title after sharing the crown in 2017, for a noon game at Bowditch Field.
The Skyhawks (1-1) will be at W.B. Mason Stadium in Easton on Saturday at 6 p.m. to play LIU Post, which was picked to finish right behind leader Assumption College in the Northeast-10 Conference preseason poll.
This marks the second year in a row that Bridgewater State is opening the MASCAC season against Framingham State. A year ago, the Bears lost, 19-13, when a fourth-quarter comeback fell just short as they were intercepted with 1:05 to go deep in Rams’ territory.
Framingham State (1-1) is coming off a 57-19 loss to Cortland State when it was outscored, 43-6, in the second half. The Rams started the season with a 34-13 win over Endicott, which defeated Bridgewater State last week, 17-3.
“They’re a very good football team,″ said Bears coach Joe Verria. “They run the ball very well. They are very physical up front. Defensively, they are an aggressive football team. They’re picked No. 1 in the conference for a reason.″
In its 17-3 loss at Endicott, Bridgewater State had more first downs (24-17), ran more plays (81-60) and gained more yards (305-288) but managed only a Jacob Crear field goal just before the first half.
“We’ve got to capitalize on our opportunities,″ said Verria. “We didn’t do that against Endicott. It’s encouraging that we (had the advantage in those numbers), but we’ve got to take advantage and punch it in.″
The last time the Bears visited Bowditch Field was Nov. 5, 2016, when they clinched the MASCAC title with a 28-27 overtime win, giving BSU its first crown since 2000.
Senior Rodney Thomas of Brockton is the starting right guard on Framingham State’s offense.
Stonehill is coming off a thrilling, 57-54 triple-overtime win at Saint Anselm College last Saturday night in its NE-10 opener. The teams combined for 986 yards of total offense, and the Skyhawks rallied from a 10-point deficit.
“It was a wild one,″ said coach Eli Gardner. “I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in one like that.″
Running back Brian Kearns Jr. became only the second player in program history to twice receive the weekly New England Football Writers Gold Helmet for the top performance by a Division 2-3 player. Kearns, who was honored Wednesday at a luncheon at Harvard University, set a Stonehill record with 44 carries and had 180 yards and three touchdowns.
Kearns forced OT with a 2-yard TD run with 22 seconds left in regulation and won it with a 3-yard score in the third OT. The Skyhawks finished with 218 rushing yards with Mike Cordova adding 94 yards.
“Brian did a tremendous job,″ said Gardner. “It’s big to have both of those guys back there.″
LIU Post opened the season last weekend with a 33-8 win over American International College, using a balanced offense and forcing four turnovers.
The Pioneers have a 13-3 edge in the season series with the Skyhawks and won the past two years by a combined 102-36.
“LIU has been a really talented team and has had our number,″ said Gardner. “They really get after it on defense and we’re going to have our hands full.″
Bainter earns honor: Springfield College junior Nick Bainter of East Bridgewater was named the offensive athlete of the week in New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference football.
Bainter, a preseason All-America center, was a key part in the Pride compiling 432 yards of total offense, including 418 yards via the running game, in a 42-0 win over Kean.
- Ohio State 34, TCU 27: The Buckeyes survive on the road.
- Harvard 24, San Diego 21: The Crimson hold on for a win in the opener.
- UMass 28, FIU 24: The Minutemen pick up their second win.
- LIU Post 35, Stonehill 27: The Skyhawks drop their second home game in a row.
- Framingham State 28, Bridgewater State 17: The Bears open the MASCAC season with a loss.
LAST WEEK: 3-2 | SEASON TOTAL: 7-3