FITCHBURG, Mass. – The Fitchburg State University football team held off a fourth quarter rally as the host Falcons edged Bridgewater State University, 31-29, in Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) action on Saturday afternoon at Elliot Field.
The Falcons improve to 2-2 on the season and 1-1 in the MASCAC, while the Bears fall to 0-4 overall and 0-2 in conference play. BSU's four losses this season are by a combined total of ten points.
Fitchburg has won three of the last four meeting between the two teams, while Bridgewater still holds a 25-8 lead in the all-time series which dates back to 1986.
Following a 37 yard field goal by freshman Geoffrey Richerts (Northbridge, Mass.) to put the Falcons up 3-0. Bridgewater State took the lead early in the second quarter on a 12-yard scamper from senior Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) for the 7-3 advantage.
With the score 10-7 in favor of Fitchburg State, the Bears rallied again (14-10) as McLaughlin took a pitch from sophomore quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.) before tossing it 49 yards downfield to junior wide out Jack Lavanchy (Walpole, Mass.) for a touchdown.
The Green and Gold regained the lead for good on a 12-yard strike from sophomore Nelson Valerio (Lawrence, Mass.) to senior tight end Devin Summiel (Tewksbury, Mass.) for the 17-14 margin just before the half.
In the second half, Fitchburg State upped its lead (24-14) on a 12 touchdown reception by senior Jesse Lastra (Fort, Myers, Fla.). The Falcons defense came up with a big play on the ensuing drive as junior Cyrick Watford (Meriden, Conn.) picked up a loose ball at the Falcons 17-yard line and raced 83 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to make the score 31-14.
The Bears rallied once again however in the final frame as McLaughlin rumbled in from four yards out to cut the deficit to 31-22 following a successful two-point conversion. Lavanchy then hauled in a nine-yard pass from D'Emilia in the far corner of the end zone. The ensuing successful PAT made it a 31-29 game with 3:17 left to play.
With two timeouts, the Bears elected to kick away rather than attempt an onside kick. Bridgewater would not get the ball back, however, as the Falcons converted two first downs and were able to run out the clock.
Watford's fumble return for touchdown was the Falcons' first since Christian Guzman accomplished the feat on September 5th, 2009 at Springfield College.
With his 80 receiving yards, Summiel surpassed former Falcon receiver Ty Spencer's all-time career receiving yards mark of 2,329 yards. Summiel now has 2,357 career receiving yards.
McLaughlin sparked the Bears running attack, totaling 127 yards on 21 carries and pair of scores. McLaughlin moved into third place on the Bears all-time career rushing yards list with 2,811, surpassing former standout quarterback Mike McCarthy's mark of 2,806 yards.
McLaughlin also moved into ninth place on Bridgewater State's all-time scoring list with his pair of TD's (202 pts), moving pass former BSU players Andy Brems (190), Matt Green (192) and Justin Fuller (198).
Fitchburg State's passing attack was paced by Valerio, who completed 16-of-27 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Jevon Brown-Simpson (Lynn, Mass.) led the Falcons ground game, rushing for 70 yards on 19 carries, while Summiel and junior Herbert Acosta (Los Angles, Calif.) combined to make 12 catches for 130 yards and two TDs.
Defensively for the Green and Gold, junior defensive back Jovon White (Meriden, Conn.) finished with a team-best 12 tackles on six solo stops and six assisted tackles as well as one interception and one fumble recovery.
The Bears passing game was led by D'Emilia who completed 20-of-36 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown and an interception.
Lavanchy hauled in ten passes for a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns. The ten receptions also equaled a career-high.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Charles McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) posted a game-leading 12 stops on five solo tackles and seven assisted stops for the Bears. Senior free safety Cameron Williamson (North Easton, Mass.) recorded an interception and pass breakup to go along with three tackles.
Penalties and turnovers hurt Bridgewater State for the fourth straight game. The Bears were flagged for 12 penalties (100 yards) and turned the ball over four times. Through four games, the Bears have been whistled for 43 accepted penalties totaling 365 yards and have committed 12 turnovers (six fumbles, six interceptions).
The Falcons travel to Mass. Maritime Academy to take on the Buccaneers next Saturday at 1:00pm in MASCAC action, while the Bears head will host Westfield State on the same day in a MASCAC tilt, starting at noon.