BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. -- Junior quarterback Danny Higgins (Manahawkin, N.J.) earned Lee Harrington Most Valuable Player honors by accounting for five touchdowns, including three through the air, to lead Bridgewater State to a 64-42 victory over Massachusetts Maritime in the 37th Annual Cranberry Bowl Presented By Ocean Spray Saturday afternoon at Clean Harbors Stadium.
The visiting Bears (7-3, 6-2 MASCAC) overcame an 11-point second quarter deficit to earn "The Scoop" for the 27th time and avenge last year's 10-point setback to the host Buccaneers (4-6, 3-5 MASCAC).
Mass. Maritime took the opening kickoff and marched 65 yards to take the lead on senior quarterback Brad Skeffington's (Salem, Mass.) four-yard run. Junior Liam Murphy (South Hadley, Mass.) got Bridgewater State on the board with a 32-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, and following a Massachusetts Maritime punt, Higgins connected with sophomore Travis Bassett (Littleton, Mass.) on a six-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to give the visitors a 10-7 edge heading into the second stanza.
The Buccaneers used a trick play on their ensuing possession to regain a 14-10 advantage after junior Shane Haggerty (Cohasset, Mass.) hauled in a 59-yard halfback option pass from sophomore Kenny Pierce (Beverly, Mass.) just nine seconds into the quarter. Folllowing a fumble deep in Bear territory, Skeffington extended Massachusetts Maritime's lead to 21-10 with 5:55 remaining in the half on a 16-yard scoring scamper.
Higgins answered back for Bridgewater State with a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior Michael Viola (Wrentham, Mass.) with 2:47 to play before the break, and sophomore Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) gave the Bears the lead for good with a pair of scores that came just 3:01 apart early in the third stanza on a one-yard plunge and an 80-yard scamper down the right side following a punt.
McLaughlin now has 16 rushing touchdowns on the season which leads the MASCAC.
The hosts crept back to within two (30-28) on the ensuing possession on Pierce's 15th rushing touchdown of the season from three yards out, but a second Higgins-to-Bassett scoring strike from 25 yards out on fourth-and-six extended the visitors lead back to nine (37-28) heading into the final frame.
The Bears iced their triumph with 14 points in a 29 second span early in the fourth quarter, as senior David Console (Malden, Mass.) returned an interception 44 yards for a pick-six before a bad snap out of the end zone on the ensuing possession resulted in a team safety for Bridgewater State. Following the free kick, Higgins dashed in from 40 yards out to give the visitors a 52-28 lead with just over 13 minutes to play.
Skeffington scored from 11 yards out (his third rushing touchdown of the day and 13th of the season for the Buccaneers) following a Bear fumble on a punt return with 7:31 remaining.
The visitors then recovered an onside kick and scored on senior Carlton Williamson's (North Easton, Mass.) 36 yard run just 18 seconds later, and following Console's third interception of the day, Higgins closed out Bridgewater State's scoring with his second rushing touchdown from 16 yards out.
Junior Cody Stahmer (Wareham, Mass.) closed out the highest scoring Cranberry Bowl with Massachusetts Maritime's final points of the afternoon with 49 seconds remaining on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Skeffington, who tied John Trudel's school record with his 18th scoring strike of the season.
Higgins amassed 262 yards of total offense (194 passing, 68 rushing) to go with his five total touchdowns in the triumph for the Bears, who received a combined 302 rushing yards from McLaughlin (168) and Williamson (134) on 40 carries. Bassett hauled in five receptions for 94 yards for Bridgewater State, which tied the school record for most points in a game while amassing 597 yards of total offense including 403 on the ground.
Skeffington closed out his collegiate career by collecting 296 yards of total offense and accounting for four scores for Massachusetts Maritime, as he rushed for 160 yards and threw for 136 more. Pierce added 67 rushing yards to finish the season with 1,211 for the Buccaneers, who received a career-high 129 receiving yards from Haggerty as part of 448 yards of total offense.
Console added a pair of solo tackles to go with his three interceptions in pacing Bridgewater State defensively, as the Bears also received 12 solo stops, a sack and a forced fumble from junior Elvis Romero (Wayne, N.J.).
Senior Ash Ergle (Modoc, S.C.) paced Massachusetts Maritime with a career-high 14 solo tackles, while junior Marshall McCarthy(Duxbury, Mass.) finished the year with 11 tackles in the contest and an even 100 stops on the season. Freshman Paul Sances (Middleboro, Mass.) recorded his team-leading fifth interception as well for the Buccaneers, who also received a pair of tackles for losses of 10 yards from senior Brendan Smith (Dartmouth, Mass.).
The result shattered the previous high-water mark for Cranberry Bowl scoring of 73 points set in 2011 when Bridgewater State posted a 38-35 triumph over Massachusetts Maritime, which ironically was also the last time that the home team triumphed in the series.
Bridgewater State will await word of a possible post-season berth in NCAA or ECAC play on Monday morning. Today's Cranberry Bowl marked the 2015 season finale for Massachusetts Maritime.
Notes: Bridgewater State also scored 64 points (64-28) against Salve Regina University back on October 22, 2005....The Bears' 403 rushing yards marked the highest single-game total since 2009 (422 against Mount Ida)....Console's three interceptions marked the most in a game for the Bears since John Bascon picked off three passes in a 28-14 win over Salve Regina back on September 16, 2006.