BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The visiting Framingham State University football team withstood a furious fourth quarter comeback as the Rams posted a 19-13 victory over Bridgewater State University on Friday night at Swenson Field. The game marked the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) opener for both teams.
The Rams improve to 3-0 on the season and 1-0 in the MASCAC, while the host Bears fall to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play. Framingham has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams, while Bridgewater still holds a significant 32-13 lead in the all-time series which dates back to 1973.
Framingham led 19-0 following a Ryan Clifford (Brockton, Mass.) 36-yard field goal with 11:03 remaining in the fourth quarter.
BSU sophomore quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.), who came on in relief of senior starter Jonathan Marrero (Boston, Mass.), engineered a seven-play, 80-yard drive resulting in a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior back Malik Garrett (Dorchester, Mass.). The Bears went for two but were unable to convert as they trailed 19-6 with 6:30 left to play.
After forcing a short 14-yard punt, the Bears took over at the Framingham 33. Six plays later, D'Emilia connected with Garrett on a 20-yard scoring strike to cut the deficit to 19-13 as the point after try was good.
On the ensuing possession, the Rams got one first down on a Quron Wright (Worcester, Mass.) 12-yard run. Wright then rushed for six and three yards on the next two plays to set up third and one from the FSU 32. Out of a timeout, the Bears came up with a huge third down stop to force a Framingham punt.
Taking over at their own 39 with no timeouts and with 2:01 showing on the scoreboard, D'Emilia completed back-to-back seven yard passes to junior wide receiver Jack Lavanchy (Walpole, Mass.) followed by a 20 yard connection to Garrett to move the ball down to the Framingham27 with still over a minute left to play.
After two incomplete passes, senior defensive back Jaquan Harris (Boston, Mass.) squashed the Bears' hopes of a dramatic comeback with an interception at the FSU five-yard line (and return to the 32) with 1:05 remaining. Two kneel-downs put the finishing touches on the Rams' key conference win.
Framingham opened the scoring in the second quarter on a three-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Rufus Rushins (Lynn, Mass.). The TD run capped off a 12-play, 69-yard drive.
Later in the second quarter following a BSU fumble, Clifford booted the first of his two field goals, this one from 40 yards out, with 1:54 remaining to give the Rams a 10-0 lead.
A 15-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Zak Walker (Ayer, Mass.) to junior wide receiver Napoleon Miller (Boston, Mass.) extended the Rams' lead to 16-0 (the PAT was blocked) with 3:07 showing on the third quarter clock.
Late in the third quarter, Bridgewater's fourth turnover of the day led to Clifford's second field goal and a 19-0 FSU lead with 11:03 remaining in the final period. The Bears then rallied but the comeback fell short.
Wright rushed for a game-high 144 yards on 35 carries, while junior running back Sebastien Robert (Cambridge, Mass.) added 62 yards on ten attempts. The Rams outgained the Bears on the ground by a margin of 252 yards to 132.
BSU senior running back Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) led the Bears' ground attack with 73 yards on just eight carries. McLaughlin moved into fourth place on the Bears' all-time rushing list as he increased his career total to 2,684 yards. McLaughlin passed former standout running back Bruce Burley who rushed for 2,636 yards from 2006 to 2008.
Lavanchy caught eight passes for 69 yards, while Garrett finished with five receptions for 65 yards and two scores.
D'Emilia completed 10 of 20 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
The defenses forced seven turnovers in the game including five interceptions. Bridgewater turned the ball over five times (three interceptions) while Framingham had two miscues (both picks).
Harris finished with two interceptions to go along with two tackles (one for loss) and three pass breakups. Senior defensive back Kenneth Bartolo (Malden, Mass.) recorded seven solo stops for the Rams and also picked off a pass.
Junior defensive end Chris Gemayel (Dedham, Mass.) paced the BSU defense with a game-high 12 tackles (nine solo) with three for loss. Senior linebacker Tyler Salois (North Andover, Mass.) and sophomore cornerback Juan Gonzalez (Lawrence, Mass.) had the Bears' two interceptions. Salois also notched three solo tackles, while Gonzalez finished with two.
Senior linebacker Anthony Fogarty III (Albany, N.Y.) added seven tackles (six solo) with two for loss, while fellow senior linebacker Charles McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) made six solo stops also with two for loss.
Framingham held a decided advantage in time of possession as the Rams (36:09) had the ball more than 12 minutes longer than the Bears (23:51). There were 17 accepted penalties in the game with the visitors being flagged ten times for 95 yards. Bridgewater was whistled for seven penalties for 80 yards. Framingham went 6-for-16 on third down conversions, while Bridgewater finished just 3-for-11.
The MASCAC schedule continues for both teams a week from Saturday. The Bears travel to Fitchburg State University for a two o'clock game with the Falcons, while the Rams entertain the Buccaneers of Massachusetts Maritime Academy at noon.