By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- He put together a record-setting career the past three seasons as the starting quarterback at Bridgewater State University.
Danny Higgins set school records with 6,091 passing yards and 474 completions while finishing third with 47 touchdowns as the starter from 2014-16.
Higgins is now a student assistant on the BSU coaching staff, and the Bears will be opening their season this weekend with a new starting quarterback.
“It’s a challenge for us,” said coach Joe Verria. “Obviously we had somebody running our offense for three years and now we have two kids who are learning.”
When BSU plays its first game on Saturday afternoon at Buffalo State, Verria expects to use both senior Jonathan Marrero, a transfer from Springfield College, and sophomore Stefano D’Emilia, a Bridgewater-Raynham graduate, at quarterback.
Marrero was a three-year starter at Springfield who last played in the 2014 season while Bridgewater resident D’Emilia started his senior year for the Trojans and was Higgins’ backup last fall.
“Jon is very athletic and he can run the ball, throw the ball,” said Verria, “and the D’Emilia kid has a cannon for an arm. Either one of them is ready to go when they’re called on.”
Marrero, who enrolled at BSU a year ago but did not play last season, was a running quarterback at Springfield.
He gained 2,612 yards on 428 attempts (6.1 yards per carry) and scored 32 touchdowns in 26 games while throwing for 1,381 yards and 21 touchdowns from 2012-14.
“At Springfield, we had the triple option and we ran more,” said Marrero, a Boston resident. “Here it’s a lot different, more of a spread offense. I can do a little bit of both, but my strength is running.”
Marrero, who took the past two seasons off after leaving Springfield, is thrilled about getting back on the field.
“I’ve been anxious from day one,″ he said. “Once I knew I was coming here and had a chance to play, I’ve been anxious. It’s a great feeling to play again. It’s going to be great.
“Once I came to Bridgewater, it was a great atmosphere. I got along well with the coaches right away. A lot of the teammates I got along with. It just feels like home.”
D’Emilia was a backup at B-R, getting some playing time as a sophomore, before taking over as the starter in his senior season.
He sat behind Higgins a year ago, getting on the field only briefly during the Plymouth State game when the starter was injured.
Now, D’Emilia is looking forward to getting a chance to contribute with Marrero.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I didn’t get to play a lot in high school, so it’s cool to get an opportunity sophomore year.
“This was the only school I applied to. I just wanted to play for my hometown and see how things played out if I walked on. I just knew I wanted to come here.”
With Marrero being a more effective runner and D’Emilia being the passer, the Bears have a chance to mix things up on defenses.
“I think it’s awesome,” said D’Emilia. “I’ve never been a part of something like this before. It’s going to be tough for other teams to keep up with us with him running and throwing and then bringing me in and throwing the ball. It’s going to be tough for teams to game plan.”
Said Marrero: “We have the same kind of leadership skills. We know the game pretty well. We know how to break down defenses. We have a lot of similarities.”
As they adjust to the new situation, D’Emilia and Marrero are being guided by Higgins, whose last game for BSU was in the NCAA Division 3 tournament last November.
All that he learned as a backup to Mike McCarthy as a freshman and then starting the past three seasons is coming in handy.
“Danny knew the offense inside and out and I got to learn a lot from him last year,” said D’Emilia. “He’s awesome. He knows this offense like the back of his hand.”