BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Senior running back Melikke Van Alstyne (Salem, Mass.) rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 29 seconds left, as the visiting Framingham State University Rams clinched the inaugural Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Football Championship with a dramatic 35-28 victory over the Bridgewater State University Bears on Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field.
Framingham improves to 8-1 on the season and remains unbeaten in the MASCAC with a 7-0 conference mark. The Rams wrap up the regular season next Saturday at Worcester State University. Bridgewater falls to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play. The Bears travel to Massachusetts Maritime Academy next week to take on the Buccaneers in the 35th Annual Ocean Spray Cranberry Bowl.
BSU senior quarterback Mike McCarthy (Edgartown, Mass.) paced the host Bears with 96 rushing yards and three scores. He also completed 10 of 19 passes for 117 yards, but threw two costly third quarter interceptions.
McCarthy led the Bears on two long second half touchdowns drives to erase a 27-14 deficit. He capped off an 11-play, 79-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge on fourth and goal to cut the deficit to 27-21 with 14:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. After forcing a punt, McCarthy orchestrated an 18-play, 70-yard drive which lasted eight minutes and 44 seconds. After a pass interference penalty on fourth down in the end zone, senior left guardMike Duran (Bridgewater, Mass.) gave the Bears a 28-27 lead with 3:51 left to play as he hopped on a McCarthy fumble in the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Trailing 28-27, the Rams took advantage of a short kickoff and poor coverage to begin the game-winning drive on their own 45-yard line with 3:46 remaining. A 19-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Matthew Silva (Dracut, Mass.) to sophomore wide out Tevin Jones(Springfield, Mass.) moved the ball to the BSU 32. A 14-yard run on second down by Van Alstyne put the Rams in field goal position at the Bears' 16. Three plays later, Van Alstyne punched it in from nine yards out on third and three to give Framingham the 33-28 lead. A two-point conversion by Van Alstyne would account for the final tally of 35-28.
The teams exchanged first quarter touchdown, with BSU senior defensive end Rob Ruggiero(Acton, Mass.) blocking an extra point attempt, as the Bears led 7-6 after one period. The Rams scored on their opening possession as Van Alstyne capped of an eight-play, 84-yard drive with a one-yard TD run. The Bears responded by moving the ball 65 yards on five plays with McCarthy scoring from five yards out.
Framingham looked in great shape to have the lead at halftime as a 14-yard touchdown pass from Silva to junior receiver Jared Gauthier (Dracut, Mass.) gave the Rams a 13-7 advantage with just 27 seconds left to play in the second quarter. However a 23-yard kickoff return by BSU junior Matt Green couple with a late hit penalty gave the Bears good field position at the Framingham 42. McCarthy then connected with Green on 41-yard pass to put the ball at the one with 12 seconds remaining. After a timeout, McCarthy punched it in to put Bridgewater up 14-13 at the break.
Sophomore defensive back Tyllor McDonald (Lynn, Mass.) picked off two McCarthy passes in the third quarter and the Rams turned both turnovers into points to jump ahead 27-14.
McDonald's first interception and subsequent 26-yard return gave Framingham great field position at the BSU 39. A key fourth down conversion by Van Alstyne kept the drive alive at the Bears' 29. A 12-yard Van Alstyne run followed by a 16-yard pass from Silva to freshman wide out Jaleel Wingard (Everett, Mass.) would set up Van Alstyne's second one-yard touchdown run of the afternoon to put the Rams back on top, 20-14.
On the ensuing possession, Bridgewater moved the ball to midfield thanks to a 15-yard face mask penalty. On third-and-seven at the 50, McCarthy tried to connect with Green deep down the middle, but McDonald picked off the pass to set the Rams up at their own 21. Van Alstyne broke off a 50-yard run on the very next play to move the ball down to the BSU 29. A one-yard run followed by back-to-back incomplete passes made it fourth down and long at the 28. Silva, however, would keep the drive alive with a 24-yard pass to sophomore receiver Travis Hayes (Framingham, Mass.) and then connected with Gauthier on a four-yard scoring strike to make it a 27-14 game.
Silva finished with 230 yards and two touchdowns on 22 of 36 passing. Gauthier hauled in six receptions for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Senior linebacker Patrick McGrath (Everett, Mass.) paced the Framingham defense with a game-high 13 tackles (ten solo). Senior linebacker Samuel Hill (Lynn, Mass.) added 11 stops (ten solo) including one for loss. Junior cornerback Lewis Bailey (Chelmsford, Mass.) added five tackles and four pass breakups. Bailey and the Rams' secondary limited Bridgewater's top receiver Green to just three catches and 54 yards. Green entered the game leading all of Division III in receiving yards (1,080) and receiving touchdowns (15).
BSU senior linebacker Mike Gentili (Leominster, Mass.) led the Bears' defense with 12 tackles (ten solo) including two for loss. Gentili added 57 yard rushing on 11 carries on the offensive side of the ball. Senior defensive back Eddie Jewel (Amherst, Mass.) added six tackles and a pair of pass breakups.
Notes: McCarthy moved past Bruce Burley (2,636 yds.) into third place on the Bears' all-time rushing list as he has amassed 2,687 yards on the ground…With his three rushing touchdowns, McCarthy became just the third player in BSU football history to score 40 touchdowns joining BSU Hall of Famer Seto Berry (44 TDs) and former QB standout Dan Maurer (41 TDs)…He also passed BSU Hall of Famer Brenden Kavey (230 pts.) and Chris Carr (238 pts.) on the Bears' all-time scoring list (240 pts.)…Green added to his BSU single-season receiving yardage record as he now has 1,134 receiving yards on the year.