By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Three weeks into the season, the Bridgewater State University football team was winless and searching for a jump start.
The month of September was coming to a close and the Bears were 0-3 after dropping non-conference games to Morrisville State and St. John Fisher plus the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference opener to Western Connecticut State University.
But now, in the early days of the final month of the season, the Bears are rolling.
They have put together a five-game winning streak after that 0-3 start and are in contention for at least a share of the MASCAC championship.
Bridgewater State kept the good times rolling on Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field with a 28-10 victory over Plymouth State University in the home finale.
The Bears (5-3, 5-1 MASCAC) travel to first-place Framingham State University (6-0) on Saturday afternoon with a chance to move into a tie for the top spot.
“Next week’s the biggest one,” said coach Joe Verria. “Every week, we’ve been getting better and better and better. It’s going to be exciting next week. It’s a big week. The kids know it. Everybody’s pumped.”
Bridgewater State, coming off a bye week, turned in one of its best defensive performances against the Panthers (6-3, 4-3 MASCAC) while getting another balanced outing from the offense.
Plymouth State was limited to 165 yards of total offense and sophomore quarterback Brett Lavanchy, a transfer from Bridgewater State, was sacked six times. The Bears gave up only 74 rushing yards and had 11 tackles for a loss.
“Week by week, we’ve been getting better on defense,” said Verria. “Our offense has been solid the whole year but the defense has been coming on.”
John Philpott had two of the sacks for 12 yards and Chris Gemayel, Mark Wilson, Ben McMahon and Maxwell Kroll also had sacks. Steven Silvia (nine tackles) and Dimitri Dorinvil of Brockton (eight) were the leading tacklers.
Plymouth State scored on its first possession, getting a 30-yard field goal from Dan Carey just 4:22 into the game, but the Panthers were held scoreless until a 6-yard David Hamilton run with 11:34 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bears tallied 28 straight points in between those two scores, building a 14-3 halftime lead and added two third-quarter touchdowns.
Stefano D’Emilia, a Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High graduate, was 19 for 29 for 231 yards while T.J. Hairston caught five passes for 76 yards. Nick Santavicca had 51 of the Bears’ 136 rushing yards.
“The offense is very balanced,” said Verria. “We’ve been able to run the ball when we’ve needed to. We’ve been able to throw the ball and get some big first downs. The coaches have been doing a good job of putting us in good positions to capitalize.”
D’Emilia gave BSU a 7-3 lead on a 5-yard run with 7:59 to go in the opening quarter, Thomas Fay of Raynham adding the point after.
The advantage went to 14-3 with 1:24 to go in the half as D’Emilia lateraled to Wyatt Shisler, who threw a 7-yard TD pass to Anthony Adams.
Santavicca scored on a 1-yard run with 9:53 remaining in the third quarter, a score that was set up when Dan Cataldo blocked a punt that put the Bears at the Plymouth State 25.
BSU’s final score came with 2:31 left in the third quarter on a 15-yard pass to Nathan Ellis.
The defense took care of the rest, shutting down a Plymouth State offense that is second in the MASCAC in rushing yards. The Bears denied the running game, then chased Lavanchy out of the pocket.
“We did a good job stopping the run,” said Verria. “We were trying to pressure (Lavanchy) and get him off his mark, make him run around a bit. He throws a nice ball. He’s got a strong arm. It’s his first year playing quarterback (as a starter) and he’s going to be a good one.”