BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Bridgewater State University football team withstood a furious Endicott College fourth quarter rally as the host Bears downed the Gulls, 20-14, in a New England Football Conference (NEFC) non-divisional matchup on Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field.
Bridgewater is 3-0 to start a season for the first time since the 2005 campaign. Endicott falls to 2-1 with the loss. The game marked the first time that the two teams had ever met.
BSU junior quarterback Mike McCarthy (Edgartown, Mass.) led the way offensively for the hosts as he rushed for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries while also completing 5 of 11 passes for 45 yards.
Sophomore tailback Blaise Branch (Brockton, Mass.) added 109 yards on the ground on 19 carries for the Bears.
Bridgewater took a 14-0 lead into the intermission on the strength of a pair of first quarter Jarred Diorio field goals (35 yds, 26 yds) and McCarthy's two-yard TD run which capped off a 15 play, 78-yard drive with 6:40 remaining in the second quarter.
Endicott had a couple of opportunities to score in the opening half but a 39-yard field goal attempt went wide left and a 25-yard try hit the right upright.
The Gulls also put together a 13-play, 60-yard drive in the third quarter, but BSU senior cornerback Brian Smith (Lowell, Mass.) put an end to the threat with an interception in the end zone. The Bears took over on the 20 and marched 80 yards on nine plays with McCarthy scoring on a 31-yard run. The extra point was blocked as Bridgewater led 20-0 with 4:21 remaining in the period.
Endicott was finally able to crack the scoreboard with 12:41 left in the fourth quarter as the Gulls moved the ball 76 yards on 13 plays with sophomore quarterback Drew Frenette (New Bedford, Mass.) hooking up with freshman tight end Greg Dellorco (Franklin, Mass.) on a 12-yard touchdown pass on fourth and two.
After a poor BSU punt on the ensuing possession, the Gulls took just a minute and 19 seconds to move the ball 76 yards with Frenette hitting Dellorco down the middle of the field for a 25-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-14.
Endicott then forced a three and out and also blocked the punt to take over on the Bridgewater 32 with 6:59 remaining. A pair of two-yard runs sandwiched around an incomplete pass set up a fourth and six from the 28. Frenette hit senior receiver Jimmy Nguyen (Methuen, Mass.) with a short completion but BSU senior linebacker Justin Cruz (Dartmouth, Mass.) stopped the play well short of the first down as the Bears took over with 5:20 left to play.
Bridgewater would string together a nine-play, 67-yard drive to run out the clock and secure the win. The drive was highlighted by runs of 26 and 15 yards by Branch. The 15-yard scamper came on third and 11 from midfield.
The Bridgewater offense finished with 307 yards on the ground and 352 yards of total offense. The Bears did not turn the ball over against an Endicott defense which had forced 13 turnovers over the first two games of the season.
The BSU defense was led by sophomore linebacker David Silvia (Barrington, R.I.) who notched a game-high 11 tackles (nine solo) including two for loss. Junior safety Dillon Huber-Parker (Longmont, Colo.) registered ten tackles (seven solo), while Cruz finished with seven stop with a sack, forced fumble and a pass breakup. BSU junior safety Eddie Jewel (Amherst, Mass.) recorded his second interception in as many weeks and also notched four tackles including one for loss.
Offensively for Endicott, Frenette completed 27 of 35 passes for 219 yards and two scores but was also intercepted twice. Sophomore receiver Nate Lewis (Acushnet, Mass.) caught eight balls for 60 yards while Nguyen finished with seven catches for 65 yards. Senior running back Mike Wheeler (Hanover, Mass.) rushed for 64 yards on 12 carries and classmate Jared DiBiase (Cranston, R.I.) added 61 yards on the ground on 15 attempts.
Junior defensive lineman Marcell Cooper (Dorchester, Mass.) paced the Gulls defense with 11 tackles (nine solo) with one for loss. Junior defensive back Davas Wright (Fall River, Mass.) added eight stops.
NEFC divisional play begins next week for both teams. Bridgewater hosts Bogan Division rival Framingham State University on Friday night at seven, while Endicott travels to Boyd Division foe Salve Regina University next Saturday afternoon at one.