By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University football season has been extended by one week.
The Bears have been chosen to play one of three New England Bowl games and will host Salve Regina University on Saturday at noon at Swenson Field.
Bridgewater State (7-3) will represent the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference after the likely participant, Western Connecticut State University, withdrew itself from consideration over the weekend.
Administrators at Western Connecticut State decided not to let the Colonials play a postseason game after the team was involved in an ugly skirmish with Westfield State University in the regular-season finale last Saturday in Danbury.
Western Connecticut State and Bridgewater State tied for second place in the MASCAC at 6-2 behind Framingham State, but the Colonials (8-2) had a better overall mark and defeated the Bears in four overtimes on Oct. 20.
With Western Connecticut State out of the picture, the door opened for Bridgewater State to play in the New England Bowl.
“This is a fitting way and a great way to end the season,” said Coach Joe Verria, whose team bounced back after going 2-8 a year ago. “The mantra of the team all year has been trust the process and embrace the grind and they did that.
“All season, they’ve done what we asked them to do and they bought into everything we did. It’s pretty exciting. It shows that we are turning this around.”
This is the third year that teams from the MASCAC, Commonwealth Coast Conference, New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference and Eastern Collegiate Football Conference have been playing New England Bowl games.
In addition to the BSU-Salve Regina game, the other matchups are the Merchant Marine Academy at Endicott and SUNY Maritime at Springfield College.
This marks the 12th postseason game for Bridgewater State, which has played four NCAA Division 3 tournament games (going 0-4 with losses in 1999, 2000, 2012 and 2016) and seven ECAC games (going 2-5).
The Bears’ last postseason game was a 33-27 overtime loss at Alfred in 2016. The last win came in the ECAC North Atlantic Bowl in 2006, a 41-22 victory at Coast Guard.
Bridgewater State has not hosted a postseason game since losing to Alfred, 41-10, in the ECAC Northeast Bowl in 2011.
The Bears got off to a 1-2 start this season with consecutive losses to Endicott and Framingham State. But they rebounded to win six of the final seven games, the only loss coming in four OTs on the road.
“The last time we went to a postseason game like this (the 2015 ECAC Legacy Bowl in Connecticut), we were in the national tournament the next year,” said Verria. “This may be considered a consolation game, but it shows you are going in the right direction.”
Salve Regina and Bridgewater State last met on opening night of the 2014 season when the Seahawks won, 33-14, at Swenson Field. They also defeated the Bears to open the 2013 season, 36-7, in Rhode Island.
Bridgewater State’s last win over Salve Regina was in 2008 on the road, 42-18. The Seahawks finished in a three-way tie with Endicott and Western New England in the Commonwealth Coast Conference and Western New England won a complicated tiebreaker to receive the conference’s NCAA berth.