|Bridgewater State kicker was hoisted on high after his game-winning kick Saturday.
Bridgewater State athletics photos
The extra point has come to be thought of as the most routine play in football.
Yet, we have learned over and over that nothing is automatic. Just when we begin to take the PAT for granted, we get the reminder.
"It's funny, when you are a kicker you're only job is to put the ball between the uprights. It doesn't always happen," former Gustavus Adolphus kicker Ryan Boutwell told me after his recent induction into the school's Hall of Fame.
Bridgewater State edged Framingham State 28-27 in overtime after Olubiiyi Ojo broke through the middle of the line and blocked the Rams' extra point. Then, Russ Bolarinho converted his kick and the celebration was on as the Bears had run their MASCAC record to 7-0, clinching the title and the automatic playoff berth that goes with it.
Like Boutwell, Bolarinho was a soccer player.
"The kid never played football before," Bridgewater coach Joe Verria said.
Verria had played at Bridgewater on a team that had a good kicker and asked him to help his new specialist.
"He worked with him and gave him some pointers," Verria said. "He has worked hard and has made some big kicks for us."
Those included an overtime field goal in a win over Plymouth State.
It has been one heck of a ride for the Bears who began the season 0-2 before starting MASCAC play. They lost the opener to Curry and then fell to Kean.
"When we asked the kids to set some goals in the preseason, all they talked about was beating Framingham," Verria said.
Framingham had been the gold standard in the MASCAC, but Verria and the staff tried to caution the players that their focus should be on Curry.
"When they lost to Curry they were reeling," Verria said.
Then came the loss to Kean. It was a game that Verria said the Bears could have won, a big step up from last year when they were not competitive against that team.
That was a juncture of the campaign. The rest of the season would be nothing but league games.
"We told them then, 'This is like preseason. Now, we are in the MASCAC. This is where your goals and dreams are,'" Verria said.
It's been a dream the rest of he way. Seven games and seven victories.
Capping it all was a the big play by Ojo and the kick by Bolarinho in overtime. Ojo was a transfer who did not play football at his previous school, and Bolarinho was someone who had not played football at all.
"All year we have had someone make a big play, and it has always been somebody different," Verria said. "For a kid like Ojo to make a play like that is fantastic," Verria said.
Verria himself is that kind of a story. He did not find himself installed as the head coach until August, although he has been part of the fabric of Bridgewater football for decades. He played for the Bears in the 1970s and has been on the staff nearly 30 years. He is in the school's Hall of Fame.
|Malik Garrett headlined the Bears' offense with 124 yards rushing, four receptions and three scores.|
Malik Garrett was the headliner offensively. He rushed for 124 yards, caught four passes and had three touchdowns.
"Malik had slowly become part of our offense, and now he is an integral part of our offense," Verria said.
He can show up anywhere in that offense. He was a running back, caught passes and played some quarterback during both regulation time and the overtime.
Bridgewater went to halftime with a 14-0 lead but, not surprisingly, the Rams came back.
"Framingham is a team that does not quit, and neither do we," Verria said.
The 7-0 run through the league so far hardly means it is over. The title has been clinched, but the Cranberry Bowl beckons. The 38th edition of the storied rivalry game with Mass. Maritime is on Saturday.
WNE stays unbeaten
Nick Connell rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns to help Framingham State go to 9-0 in its much anticipated showdown at Salve Regina in a battle of unbeaten teams.
Obi Etuka was key figure on defense. He had a team-high seven tackles, one of the Golden Bears' three interceptions and broke up three passes.
WNE kept Seahawk quarterback Brandan Basil uncomfortable as he completed just 11 of 43 passes.
"We didn't have a great pass rush on him but we sped up his clock a little bit," Western New England coach Keith Emery said.
The victory clinched the MASCAC title and automatic playoff berth for WNE.
Nichols' ascent continues
Nichols had won five games in the previous six years combined. It has been a program starved for success, any kind of success.
After beating Maine Maritime 54-28, their record jumped to 5-4.
Chris Mullins led the offense by throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns and Josh Pierre-Charles rushed for 102 yards and a score, Brenden Massey had 146 receiving yards and another score. Alex Swaby led the defense with 10 tackles while forcing a fumble.
The fun is finally back on Saturdays in Dudley, Mass., as Dale Olmsted's recruiting yields results.
"Dale has done a great job. We recruited Chris Mullins as well," Emery said. "You could see it coming."
Now, they could finish 6-4 by beating MIT in the finale.
"Their MIT game, I think will be a great game. It will be a fund game to watch," Emery said.
Eagles wrap up ECFC
Husson also clinched, scoring a couple of late touchdown to beat Norwich 27-13.
John Smith had 211 yards and three touchdowns to show for a big work day, 44 carries. Cory Brandon threw for 219 yards and Ellis Throckmorton did his part with eight tackles and four quarterback hurries.
Trinity stays perfect
Trinity went to 7-0. Paul McCarthy spearheaded the defense in the 24-14 win over Amherst. He had two interceptions, returning one 60 yards for a touchdown.
Quick kicks: Chris Lipscomb had eight receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns to help Endicott to a 28-17 win over Coast Guard. ... John Robertson had 167 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries for MIT in its 26-21 win over Curry. ... Tucker Cheyne helped provide the difference by making both of his field goal attempts. ... Matt Murphy made his field goal with nine seconds left to lift SUNY-Maritime to a 17-14 win over Mount Ida. ... Anna Maria got its first win, beating Gallaudet 27-13, Anna Maria picked off four passes with Malik Faison and Brian Moretti returning theirs for touchdowns. Stefano Marziale led Anna Maria with 14 tackles, forcing and recovering a fumble as well. ... Mitch Caron threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Anthony Porcelli with 3:45 remaining to give Castleton its 23-22 win over Becker. Moe Harris added 113 yards and a TD on the ground. Zach Edwards threw two touchdown passes as Plymouth toppled Mass. Maritime 28-7. ... Matt Lezema did plenty of the work for Worcester State with 215 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries as the Lancers beat Westfield State 31-17. Connor Fitzsimmons tossed two touchdown passes to help Fitchburg State to a 22-14 win over UMass-Dartmouth. .., Jared Lebowitz threw for 412 yards and four touchdowns as Middlebury romped against Hamilton, 45-10. He also rushed for a touchdown. Conrad Banky was his hot receiver with 154 yards and three scores. Bobby Ritter had two interceptions for the 6-1 Panthers. ... Bates beat Maine rival Bowdoin 24-7 as Matt Golden ran for 126 yards and a touchdown. Trevor Lyons picked off two passes for the Bobcats. ... Tufts beat Colby 44-12 as Chance Brady had 174 rushing yards with three touchdowns.
The big games
Western New England ends the regular season by hosting Coast Guard but don't expect Emery to rest people.
"One of our goals is to win an NCAA playoff game, and part of that is to get the best draw we can. We need to win this," Emery said.
Castleton and Norwich clash for the Maple Sap Bucket in Northfield. This will be the final meeting where the Bucket game will be a conference game as Norwich leaves the ECFC for the NEWMAC. The Cadets and Spartans are committed to keeping the game.
Trinity will look to polish off that unbeaten season, but it does not figure to be easy as the Bantams travel to Wesleyan.
The Biggest Little Game in America is at Williams. An unbeaten season or NESCAC title is not at stake as it has been so many times in this long and storied series but it does not have to be. It is the one that matters to players and alumni the most and the one that can make their season.