By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University football team will be taking part in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference showdown game this weekend.
The second-place Bears travel to Bowditch Field to take on first-place Framingham State University at noon Saturday with a chance to gain the inside track on the MASCAC championship and a trip to the NCAA Division 3 tournament.
A victory by the Bears (5-3, 5-1 MASCAC) over the Rams (6-2, 6-0) and then another win in the season finale next week at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy would send BSU to the NCAAs on Nov. 23.
Framingham State, which has won eight of the past nine games in the series, can clinch another conference title by beating Bridgewater State. In 2016, the Bears defeated the Rams in overtime in Framingham for their first conference championship in 15 years.
The matchup pits two teams that struggled at the beginning of the season with BSU going 0-3 and Framingham State dropping its first two games to Endicott and Brockport. Since then, the Bears are on a five-game winning streak while the Rams have won six in a row.
“They’re good,” said BSU coach Joe Verria. “They’re better than we’ve seen them in a while because they’re very balanced, have a very good defense. They don’t have any weaknesses.
“We’re going to have to be as good as we have been all year.”
Quarterback Adam Wojenski has thrown for 2,035 yards and 19 touchdowns with four receivers having at least 25 catches. Running back Devaun Ford has rushed for 677 yards and seven touchdowns in an offense that averages 441 yards and 32.4 points.
BSU lost two non-conference games and the MASCAC opener to Western Connecticut State, but the Bears rebounded to put themselves in a position to emerge as champions with two more wins.
“We do control our own fate,” said Verria. “To be in this position after being 0-3 to start the season is a credit to all the players, all the coaches and everybody who has been working hard the whole time.
“We’ve been getting better and better every week. I wouldn’t ask for any other team right now to go into this game. Everybody is focused and excited. We seem to be very well prepared right now. It’s going to be a battle, it really is.”
The Bears are 32-14 all-time versus the Rams, 16-7 at home and 16-7 on the road. The Rams, however, have won eight of the last nine meetings.
Stonehill’s Home Finale: Stonehill College (5-3, 4-2 Northeast-10 Conference) concludes its home schedule by playing Pace University (5-3, 4-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at W.B. Mason Stadium.
The Skyhawks, Pace, New Haven and Bentley are tied for second place at 4-2, one game behind Assumption College (5-1). Stonehill finishes the season next weekend at New Haven.
Stonehill’s two conference losses were by three points each at Assumption (in overtime) and Bentley (on a last-second field goal).
“I’m really pleased with how are guys are approaching it and how hard we’ve played,” said coach Eli Gardner. “We’ve given ourselves a chance to win every week. It hasn’t always happened and we had a couple of close calls.
“Some of it is trial by fire for some of our young guys and it’s a great learning experience for them and we’re seeing some success here. We’ve had some guys step in who we were hoping would develop and they have.”
Sophomore running back Justin Felder broke the program record with 314 rushing yards in last week’s win over Southern Connecticut State. The mark had been held since 1994 by Mike McLucas with 250 yards. Felder is first in the NE-10 and 11th nationally in Division 2 with 1,038 yards, becoming the fourth Stonehill play to go over 1,000 yards.
“He’s just done a great job of developing in the system,” said Gardner of Felder, who stepped into a lead role after a season-ending knee injury to Brian Kearns Jr. “He had a role as a freshman and got significant playing time. He was ready to step into whatever role he had this year.
“He prepared like he was going to be the starter and when he became the starter he didn’t miss a beat.”
- Boston College 28, Florida State 21: The Eagles get their sixth win to qualify for a bowl.
- Alabama 24, LSU 21: The game of the week goes to the Crimson Tide at home.
- Penn State 31, Minnesota 21: The Nittany Lions stay perfect.
- Framingham State 27, Bridgewater State 20: The Bears fall short on the road.
- Stonehill 31, Pace 21: The Skyhawks clinch a winning season.
LAST WEEK: 5-0 | SEASON TOTAL: 27-8