By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The 2017 Bridgewater State University football season began with four straight losses, three of them by two points or less.
It was a rough start for the Bears, who were unable to recover and finished with a losing record (2-8) for only the third time in 30 years.
And when the 2018 season got going last weekend, BSU found itself in yet another close game with Buffalo State.
This time, though, the Bears survived for a 30-29 victory to win their first opener since 2015.
“It’s huge,” said coach Joe Verria of prevailing in a tight game after what happened a year ago. “It was like we outworked the other team and wanted it more. It’s something we didn’t see as much last year. We definitely took it to them in the second half. We have a good group of kids.”
Bridgewater State plays its second and final non-conference game of the season on Friday at 7 p.m. when hits the road to face Endicott College (0-1). It marks the Bears’ first trip to Beverly to face the Gulls, who have been playing football since 2002.
Endicott stunned Bridgewater State in the second game last season at Swenson Field, scoring a touchdown as time expired to grab a 29-28 win. The Gulls went 92 yards in nine plays in the final 1:51, converting a long, fourth-down play and scoring on a 31-yard touchdown pass.
In its opener last week, Endicott lost to Framingham State, 34-13, with the Gulls struggling with special teams play.
“They gave up field position on special teams, but they played them even on offense and defense,” said Verria. “They throw the ball, they can run the ball. They’re aggressive on defense and fly around.”
The Bears will try to get some momentum going before traveling to Framingham State next weekend for the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference opener. The Rams are picked to finish first in the preseason poll and shared the title with Plymouth State last fall.
“We’re building on what we did last week,” said Verria. “We had too many turnovers, but once we settled down, we got it going pretty good.”
BSU’s offensive line was named to the D3football.com team of the week for its performance against Buffalo State when the Bears had 454 yards of total offense. The group includes Bridgewater-Raynham graduate Niccolas Falconeiri of Middleboro, Austin White, Michael Casey, Nicholas Spinale and Zachary Tillson of Plymouth.
In his first collegiate start, Nick Santavicca rushed for 200 yards.
“He didn’t get a ton of reps last year, but we knew he could run,” said Verria. “He runs hard, cuts well, has good vision. He’s a tough kid.”
Kyle Dance was named the MASCAC defensive player of the week after making six tackles with an interception.
Stonehill on the road: Stonehill College begins the Northeast-10 Conference schedule by traveling to Manchester, N.H., to play Saint Anselm College on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Skyhawks have won 14 straight games against Saint Anselm, including 13 in a row while playing for the Ol’ Bronze Hawk starting in 2006. Stonehill leads the season series, 15-5.
This marks the second of four straight night games for the Skyhawks, who fell to Fairmont State of West Virginia last week, 34-19. Saint Anselm is opening its season against Stonehill.
Gallagher a starter: Sophomore Blake Gallagher of Raynham is starting at linebacker for Northwestern University. Gallagher, who was a backup as a true freshman, was tied for second on the team with eight tackles in a 31-27 win over Purdue in the opener. Northwestern hosts Duke on Saturday. ... Sophomore linebacker Josh Martin of Abington was tied for the team lead with eight tackles in Bentley’s loss to West Chester last week.
- Penn State 34, Pittsburgh 21: The Nittany Lions get their second win.
- Stanford 27, USC 24: The Cardinal get past the Trojans.
- UMass 24, Georgia Southern 21: The Minutemen bounce back.
- Bridgewater State 28, Endicott 21: The Bears make it 2-0 with the road win.
- Stonehill 31, Saint Anselm 21: The Skyhawks break into the win column.
LAST WEEK: 4-1