By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The final chapter of a rough 2017 Bridgewater State University football season was written last Nov. 11 next to the Cape Cod Canal.
The Bears concluded a 2-8 season – the fewest wins by the program since 1984 – by losing the Cranberry Bowl to the host Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which defeated Bridgewater State for only the third time in 30 years.
"It was terrible," said Bears coach Joe Verria. "It was the end of a terrible season."
One year later, Bridgewater State has turned things around, going 6-3 with a 5-2 record in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.
And the Bears are approaching the 40th annual Cranberry Bowl, which takes place Saturday at noon at Swenson Field and is sponsored by Ocean Spray, looking to cap off their turnaround season by regaining the Cranberry Scoop.
A victory over the Buccaneers (2-7, 1-6 MASCAC) might also get Bridgewater State a berth in a New England Bowl game the following weekend, depending on the postseason fates of Framingham State and Western Connecticut State.
"The game's huge, especially after losing last year," said Verria while attending the annual Cranberry Bowl luncheon attended by captains, coaches and administrators from both schools Thursday afternoon in Bridgewater. "I think these kids have been thinking about this one for a while.
"We want to end the season the right way. You always want to win the last one to bring you into the offseason the right way.
"To get seven wins would be huge after going 2-8 last year. It'd definitely be sending a statement to the program and the kids that we're on our way back and we're going in the right direction."
Mass. Maritime is bidding for back-to-back Cranberry Bowl victories for the first time since 1984-85. The Buccaneers won three in a row when the Cranberry Bowl began (1979-81).
"They're a good football team," said Verria. "They only have two wins, but when you look at them on film, that's not what you see. You see a tough football team, a hard working football team. They've been in tight, tight games. They've lost close games to some of the best teams in the league.
"You know they're motivated to keep it, to win back-to-back scoops."
Senior Jack Lavanchy is just 37 yards shy of the Bears' all-time receiving mark of 2,765 yards held by Matt Green. In just three seasons at Bridgewater State, Lavanchy has a school-record 211 career receptions for 2,729 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Mass. Maritime's top receiver is senior Paul Sances of Middleboro, who has 46 catches for 672 yards and three touchdowns. After playing on defense as a freshman, Sances has 119 career receptions for 1,793 yards and 12 TDs.
Among those on hand at the luncheon was longtime BSU head coach Pete Mazzaferro, who went to Edaville Railroad in Carver in 1979 and had the site sponsor the BSU-Mass. Maritime game, with the Cranberry Scoop going to the winner. Verria was a senior at Bridgewater State in the first game.
"It's amazing that it's been 40 years since my senior year," said Verria. "The tradition that's been built year after year after year after year is something special and coach Mazzaferro has led the whole thing."
Stonehill at home: Stonehill College (1-8, 1-7 Northeast-10 Conference) finishes its season by hosting Assumption College (6-3, 6-2) at W.B. Mason Stadium in Easton on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Skyhawks are on a seven-game losing streak since their only win, a triple-overtime, 57-54 victory at Saint Anselm College on Sept. 8. The last time Stonehill finished a season with only one win was 2006 when it was 1-9, 1-8 in the conference.
Two Skyhawks juniors are closing in on career touchdown records.
Running back Brian Kearns Jr. has 22 rushing TDs, leaving him two behind the program's all-time leader, Eddie Vachon.
Wide receiver Andrew Jamiel has 23 TD receptions, two away from the record held by Nate Robitaille.
Assumption has won the last four games against Stonehill, including a 68-0 rout in Worcester last season when the Greyhounds scored on their first nine possessions.
- Clemson 34, Boston College 20: The Eagles can't pull off the upset.
- Ohio State 35, Michigan State 28: The Buckeyes hold off the Spartans.
- BYU 31, UMass 21: The Minutemen have their two-game winning streak stopped.
- Assumption 35, Stonehill 21: The Skyhawks finish with a loss.
- Bridgewater State 34, Mass. Maritime 20: The Cranberry Scoop returns to Bridgewater.
LAST WEEK: 4-1 | SEASON TOTAL: 38-12