By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The 2012 Bridgewater State University football team ended its season with an appearance in the ECAC Northeast Bowl.
One year later, the Bears were in the NCAA Division 3 tournament for only the third time in program history and finished 9-2.
The 2015 BSU team earned an invitation to the ECAC Legacy Bowl, and one year later, the Bears received an automatic bid in the NCAAs.
BSU is hoping that pattern continues now that it is taking part in the New England Bowl this fall, hosting Salve Regina University at noon on Saturday at Swenson Field.
Perhaps playing one week deeper into November will help the Bears get even better in the 2019 season.
“It’s definitely raising expectations,” said coach Joe Verria, whose team is 7-3. “As young as we are in a lot of positions, these kids are going to get valuable experience playing an extra game. I think that alone is very beneficial.
“It’s certainly laid the foundation for the offseason. It’d be nice to finish with a win and go into the offseason with the same drive we had this year (after going 2-8 in 2017).″
BSU will lose 12 players to graduation, including top receivers Jack Lavanchy and Travis Bassett, so there will be some voids, but a solid group will be back after having the program rebound this year.
Not only were the Bears coming off a 2-8 season, but they started 1-2 this year, losing back-to-back games to Endicott and Framingham State in September. Since then, BSU has gone 6-1, losing only in four overtimes at Western Connecticut State.
“We talked about what it took to get better and better and better each week and not worry about the record,” said Verria. “It was more about just improving, and once we started winning, we got more experience.
“The freshmen and the younger kids got better and it started coming together with the senior leadership and the youth on the team improving week after week.”
Verria said that as soon as the rough 2017 season ended, his upperclassmen were determined to put in the work throughout the winter, spring and summer to get the Bears going in the right direction again.
“This senior class is phenomenal, good leaders, hard workers,” he said. “They really set their sights on this season and worked hard in the offseason and led this football program. I’m glad they got one more game.”
Salve Regina (7-3) finished in a three-way tie with Western New England and Endicott for first place in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Western New England won the tiebreaker and the other two teams headed to a New England Bowl.
The Seahawks are in a postseason game for the seventh time in eight years. Running back Joey Mauriello is first in the CCC, averaging 99.2 rushing yards per game, while Brandon Nunes is second in receiving yards with 71.6 yards a game and has nine touchdowns.
Lavanchy enters the final game of his three-year career at BSU in possession of school records for catches (216) and receiving yards (2,851) in a career. He is third in TD catches with 27, trailing Andy Macaione (37) and Matt Green of Stoughton (29).
The Bears offense also features junior running back Nick Santavicca (1,098 rushing yards and 13 TDs), quarterbacks Stefano D’Emilia of Bridgewater (1,814 passing yards and 14 TDs) plus Brad Thiltgen (574 passing yards, five TDs) and Bassett (50 catches, 605 yards).
Goode Earns Honor: Salve Regina sophomore defensive back John Goode of Rockland was named the defensive player of the week in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. In a 47-34 win over Endicott, Goode picked off two passes and broke up two others. He was in on 11 tackles and is sixth on the team with 49 in 10 games with three interceptions and 12 breakups. ... Freshman Devante Greaves of Raynham was named the MASCAC rookie of the week for the second time this season. In a 32-29 loss to Fitchburg State, Greaves ran for 82 yards on 14 carries on scored on runs of eight and 18 yards. Greaves led the Corsairs with 492 yards and seven TDs.
- Florida State 28, Boston College 21: The Eagles lose on the road.
- Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 21: The Irish keep the perfect season going at Yankee Stadium.
- USC 28, UCLA 17: It hasn’t been a good season in southern California for the Trojans or Bruins.
- Harvard 21, Yale 20: The Crimson finish with a winning record thanks to a victory at Fenway Park.
- Bridgewater State 27, Salve Regina 20: The Bears end the season with a win.
LAST WEEK: 4-1 | SEASON TOTAL: 42-13