BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Junior cornerback Chris Easter (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) earned Most Valuable Player honors to lead the Bridgewater State University football team to a 34-19 victory over visiting Salve Regina University in the New England Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Swenson field.
The host Bears end the season with an overall record of 8-3, while the Seahawks finish the year at 7-4.
Easter recorded two interceptions to go along with five pass breakups and six solo tackles to lead an outstanding defensive effort by the Bears. Bridgewater finished with 18 pass breakups for the game and four interceptions including one that was returned for a touchdown by freshman cornerback Jaren Alves (East Providence, R.I.).
Along with his pick-six, Alves also notched another interception as well as two breakups and three tackles (two solo).
Junior quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.) completed 19 of 26 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns to highlight the BSU offense. Senior wide receiver Jack Lavanchy (Walpole, Mass.) hauled in nine receptions for 131 yards and a pair of scores, while junior running back Nick Santavicca (Yorktown Height, N.Y.) rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
After junior kicker Angelo DiSanto (North Reading, Mass.) staked the Seahawks to an early 3-0 lead with a 45-yard field goal on Salve's first possession of the game, the Bears responded with a 14-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a D'Emilia one-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Joseph Leanos (Norwood, Mass.) on fourth down. The extra point attempt was no good as Bridgewater led 6-3 with 3:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, senior defensive end John Salute (Mahwah, N.J.) sacked D'Emilia in the end zone for a safety to make it a 6-5 game. Later in the period, D'Emilia connected with Lavanchy on a 12-yard TD pass to put the finishing touches on an eight-play, 73-yard drive. The PAT was blocked as the Bears held a 12-5 lead with 3:07 left to play until halftime. That would be all the scoring in the first half.
Three straight Salve turnovers to start the second half all resulted in touchdowns as Bridgewater took a commanding 34-5 lead.
An Easter interception and 21-yard return on the opening possession of the third quarter gave Bridgewater outstanding field position at the Salve 16. Three plays later, Santavicca punched it into the end zone from two yards out. Freshman quarterback Brad Thiltgen (Cumming, Ga.) found Lavanchy in the end zone for the two-point conversion to make it 20-5.
Alves then returned his first interception of the day 39-yards for a touchdown to extend the BSU advantage to 26-5. The two-point try, however, was unsuccessful.
A 44-yard scoring strike from D'Emilia to Lavanchy was set up by a Michael Rosa (Uxbridge, Mass.) forced a fumble and Maxwell Kroll (North Attleboro, Mass.) recovery at the BSU 39. Three plays later, D'Emilia found Lavanchy wide open deep down the right side of the field for the touchdown with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter. On the conversion, sophomore holder Stephen Miranda (Hudson, Mass.) corralled a bad snap and just got the ball inside the pylon for the two points and the 34-5 BSU lead.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler McGovern (Attleboro, Mass.) tossed a pair of touchdowns to round out the scoring with DiSanto converting on both extra points. McGovern connected with junior wide receiver Brendan Nunes (Attleboro, Mass.) on a 28-yard TD pass in the third quarter and then hooked up with freshman running back Joey Mauriello (Colts Neck, N.J.) for a 30-yard early fourth-quarter touchdown.
The BSU defense dug in for the rest of the rest of the fourth quarter forcing a punt and two turnovers on downs to go along with Alves' second interception of the afternoon,
McGovern completed 24 of 59 pass attempts for 292 yards and two touchdowns with the four interceptions. Mauriello rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries and added five catches for 55 yards and a score. Nunes grabbed seven receptions for 115 yards and a TD.
Bridgewater State finished with 382 yards of total offense (269 passing, 113 rushing) while Salve Regina totaled 383 yards of offense (292 passing, 91 rushing). The Bears went 5-for-15 on third down, while the Seahawks converted just 4 of 17 third down attempts.
BSU freshman linebacker Steven Silvia (Dighton, Mass.) notched nine tackles (seven solo) with two for loss to go along with two pass breakups to help lead the Bears' on defense. Freshman defensive end Dimitri Dorinvil (Dighton, Mass.) also finished with nine tackles (six solo), while senior defensive tackle Chris Gemayel (Dedham, Mass.) recorded 2 ½ tackles for loss including a sack as well as two breakups.
Salute finished with 11 tackles (nine) solo) with a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss to lead the Salve defensive effort. Senior linebacker Tyler D'Errico (Cheshire, Conn.) checked in with ten tackles (nine solo) and a fumble recovery, while senior defensive end Brandon O'Neill (Madison, Conn.) registered six solo stops with three for loss, a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles to go along with a pass breakup.
Notes: D'Emilia broke the school record for completion percentage in a season as completed 60% (174-290) of his pass attempts in 2018. He eclipsed Mike McCarthy's previous mark of 59.8% (70-118) set in 2013….D'Emilia became the fourth different quarterback in BSU football history to throw for 2,000 yards in a season as he finished the year with 2,046 passing yards….D'Emilia now has 30 touchdown passes in three seasons at Bridgewater State as he is tied with BSU Hall of Famer Ripp Charters (1988-90) for fifth place among the Bears' all-time passing touchdown leaders….Lavanchy finished the season with 97 receptions for 1,236 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also completed his three-year career at Bridgewater State with 225 receptions for 2,982 yards and 29 touchdowns. Lavanchy leaves as the Bears single-season record holder for receptions as the well as the program's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. He is also tied for second all-time in receiving touchdowns and ranks third in single-season receiving touchdowns.