BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Junior running back Malik Garrett (Dorchester, Mass.) earned Lee Harrington Most Valuable Player honors to lead the Bridgewater State University football team to a 37-14 victory over Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the 38th Annual Cranberry Bowl Presented By Ocean Spray Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field.
Garrett rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, hauled in seven receptions for 76 yards and another score, and completed both of his pass attempts for 47 yards to pace the Bears.
Winners of eight straight games, the Bears wrap up regular season play with an overall record of 8-2 including a perfect 8-0 mark in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC). By virtue of the MASCAC championship, the Bears will advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the fourth time in program history (1999, 2000, 2012, 2016) and will await word on their first round matchup. Tournament pairings will be announced on NCAA.com on Sunday evening at six.
Bridgewater is now 28-9-1 in the 38-year history of the Cranberry Bowl which began in 1979. The Bears also hold a 31-11-1 advantage in the all-time series which dates back to 1974.
The Buccaneers end the 2016 campaign with an overall record of 4-6 with a 3-5 MASCAC mark.
The Bears took advantage of a pair of Buccaneer turnovers to jump out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter. Junior placekicker Russell Bolarinho (Acushnet, Mass.) knocked home a 25-yard field goal to open the scoring at the 12:56 mark, and junior wide receiver Travis Bassett (Littleton, Mass.) capped of a seven-play, 57-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Danny Higgins (Manahawkin, N.J.) with 8:42 remaining.
Bridgewater extended the advantage to 16-0 early in the second quarter on a Garrett four-yard touchdown run. The drive encompassed 58 yards on seven plays.
Mass. Maritime answered with an eight-play, 50-yard drive resulting in a Kenny Pierce (Beverly, Mass.) 18-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 16-7.
Later in the quarter, the Bears took over on their own 18-yard line with 4:38 remaining. Twelve plays later, senior receiver Dukens Léon (Paris, France) caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Higgins with 45 seconds showing on the scoreboard to give Bridgewater a 23-7 lead at the intermission.
Higgins threw for 156 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He finished the game 15-of-26 for 176 yards and the three scores.
Bridgewater missed a 27-yard field goal on the opening possession of the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, the Buccaneers had a first and goal at the six but were unable to score as the BSU defense came up with a big goal line stand.
Starting on the their own two, the Bears marched 98 yards on nine plays capped off by an Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) 14-yard TD run to make it a 30-7 game at the 3:54 mark of the third quarter.
McLaughlin rushed for a game-high 140 yards on 25 carries. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier for the season as he now has 1,068 yards on the ground. McLaughlin is the Bears' first 1,000-yard rusher since former standout and current assistant coach Justin Fuller rushed for 1,375 yards in 2009.
MMA junior quarterback Chris Haggerty (Cohasset, Mass.) connected with junior running back Richie Phillips (Onset, Mass.) on a seven-yard touchdown pass with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 30-14.
The Bears answered with a Garrett 18-yard touchdown run with just over five minutes left to play to account for the final tally of 37-14.
Bridgewater racked up 525 yards of total offense including 302 on the ground. The Bears converted 6 of 8 red zone chances with five touchdowns and a field goal.
Léon finished with five receptions for 51 yards and a score, while Bassett had three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively for the Bears, freshman cornerback Dylan Anti (Plymouth, Mass.) and senior linebacker Stephen Jacobs (Tyngsboro, Mass.) registered six tackles apiece, while junior safety Cameron Williamson (North Easton, Mass.) tallied four solo tackles to go along with a fumble recovery and two pass breakups. Senior defensive end Matt Halaby (Methuen, Mass.) added five tackles, including two for loss, and senior defensive tackle Elvis Romero (Wayne, N.J.) checked in with five tackles with one for loss. Senior linebacker A.J. Pascuzzo (Waterford, Conn.) contributed three solo stops and forced a fumble, while junior linebacker Charles McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) notched three solo tackles and recorded his team-leading third interception of the season.
Phillips rushed for 83 yards and caught the seven-yard touchdown to pace the Maritime offense. Chris Haggerty completed 13 of 22 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Senior wide receiver Shane Haggerty (Cohasset, Mass.) pulled down five reception for a game-high 108 yards before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with an injury.
Mass. Maritime finished with 308 yards of total offense, but turned the ball over twice and converted just 2 of 4 red zone opportunities. The Buccaneers also went 3-for-11 on third down.
Senior linebacker Marshall McCarthy (Duxbury, Mass. led the way defensively for the visitors with 12 tackles (nine solo) as he went over 100 tackles for the second straight season. Freshman linebacker Kenny Kern (Hopkinton, Mass.) added ten stops (nine solo) and a pass breakup.
Prior to the game, the Bears honored 19 seniors who were playing in their final home contest.
Notes: McLaughlin moved into seventh place on the Bears' all-time rushing list (2,328 yards)….Bassett moved into third place on the Bears' all-time receiving yardage list (1,834 yards)…. Léon moved into eighth place on the Bears all-time receptions list (84 receptions)….Higgins reached the 2,000-yard passing milestone for the second time in his career (2,067 yards)….Both Garrett (110 points) and Bassett (100 points) hit the century mark for career scoring.