BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – Senior quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.) earned Lee Harrington Most Valuable Player honors to lead the visiting Bridgewater State University football team to a dramatic 26-21 come-from-behind victory over Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the 41st Annual Cranberry Bowl Presented By A&A Metro on Saturday afternoon at Clean Harbors Stadium. The game marked the season-finale for both teams.
The Bears wrap up the 2019 season with an overall record of 6-4 including a 6-2 mark in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC). Bridgewater State is now 30-10-1 in the 41-year history of the Cranberry Bowl which began in 1979. The Bears also hold a 33-12-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Buccaneers which dates back to 1974.
Mass. Maritime ends the 2019 campaign with an overall record of 6-4 (4-4 MASCAC).
D'Emilia completed 20 of 38 pass attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 40 yards and two more scores as he rallied the Bears from a 21-6 fourth quarter deficit. D'Emilia also placed four of his five punts inside the 20-yard line despite the cold and windy conditions.
Senior running back Nick Santavicca (Yorktown Height, N.Y.) paced the BSU ground game with 139 yards on 25 carries. Santavicca became the 12th running back in program history to crack the 2,000-yard rushing milestone as he ended his BSU career with 2,006 yards on the ground.
Senior quarterback Matt Long (Weymouth, Mass.) rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns to highlight the Maritime offense.
The two teams combined for 47 points in the game, but none of the scoring came over the first 30 minutes of the contest. Bridgewater State had the best scoring opportunity in the first half as the Bears drove into the red zone late in the second quarter and had a first-and-goal at the Maritime eight-yard line. Senior cornerback Austin Stahmer (Wareham, Mass.), however, forced a fumble on second down to end the scoring threat.
The Buccaneers capitalized on a pair of interceptions to help take a 21-6 lead in the second half. Maritime converted an interception by sophomore free safety Kyle Rogers (Abington, Mass.) into a Long one-yard rushing touchdown in the opening stages of the third quarter. Junior kicker George Lampros (Bridgewater, Mass.) converted the PAT to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead.
After the two teams exchanged punts, the Bears marched 61 yards on 15 plays with D'Emilia punching it in from a yard out to close the gap to 7-6. A bad snap on the conversion attempt cost the visitors a chance to tie the game.
Maritime answered with an eight-play, 68-yard drive highlighted by a 35-yard pass from Long to freshman wide receiver Isaac Green (Sarasota, Fla.). Long capped off the drive with a nine-yard TD run and Lampros booted the PAT to make it a 14-6 game with 14:22 left to play in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing series, senior cornerback Hunter Leveille (Easthampton, Mass.) intercepted a D'Emilia pass and returned it 35 yards down to the BSU five. Three plays later, Long scored his third rushing touchdown of the afternoon as he punched it in from a yard out. Lampros connected on his third PAT to give the Buccaneers a 21-6 lead with 11:43 showing on the scoreboard.
A short Maritime kickoff was returned 15 yards by junior Ryan Verria (Bridgewater, Mass.) to give the Bears good field position at their own 42. Bridgewater marched 58 yards on eight plays resulting in a D'Emilia one-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 21-12 with 8:35 remaining. The Bears went for two and converted, but a pass interference penalty nullified the play. The Bears then attempted the kick, but it was blocked.
The BSU defense forced a three-and-out, and D'Emilia led the offense on seven-play, 56-yard drive which took only a minute and 48 seconds off the clock. D'Emilia completed 4 of 7 passes on the drive including a key third-and-ten conversion to senior tight end Joseph Leanos (Norwood, Mass.) down to the Maritime 14. D'Emilia then found sophomore wide receiver Nathan Ellis (Dartmouth, Mass.) in the end zone to make it a one-score game. Sophomore kicker Thomas Fay (Raynham, Mass.) knocked home the PAT to make it a 21-19 game with 4:24 remaining.
After allowing a first down on the first play of the ensuing drive, the BSU defense came up big again and forced another Maritime punt.
Taking over at the BSU 32, D'Emilia completed eight passes to six different receivers capped off by a ten-yard scoring strike to junior wideout T.J. Hairston (Watertown, Mass.) to complete the dramatic comeback with just 22 seconds left to play. The Bears converted twice on third down during the game-winning drive, a 12-yard pass to Leanos on third-and-12 from the Bears 30, and a nine-yard pass to Leanos on third-and-five from the Maritime 29. Fay converted the PAT to account for the final tally of 26-21.
Despite turning the ball over four times, Bridgewater State finished with 373 yards of total offense including 199 on the ground, The Bears converted 28 first downs and went 7-for-14 on third down and 1-for-1 on fourth.
Maritime notched 214 yards off total offense with 151 yards coming on the ground. The Bucs did not turn the ball over and were not flagged for a penalty. Maritime went 7-for-17 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth.
Senior defensive tackle Maxwell Kroll (North Attleboro, Mass.) paced the BSU defense with a season-high 11 tackles (eight solo) including one for loss. Junior defensive end John Philpott (Gloucester, Mass.) added a season-high ten tackles (four solo), while freshman linebacker Ben McMahon (Somerset, Mass.) checked in with six tackles (three solo) and two pass breakups. Sophomore defensive end Dimitri Dorinvil (Brockton, Mass.) contributed four tackles (two solo) with a sack and pass breakup.
Junior linebacker Jack Fontana (Grafton, Mass.) led the Buccaneers with 15 tackles (eight solo) and a pass breakup. Senior linebacker Sean Smialek (South Dartmouth, Mass.) added 14 stops (five solo), while Stahmer finished with 13 tackles (nine solo), one for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Senior defensive end Kyle Johnson (Raynham, Mass.) checked in with seven tackles (three solo), including three for loss and a sack to go along with a pass breakup.
Notes: D'Emilia finished his career as the Bears' all-time leader in completions (490), pass attempts (879) and completion percentage (.557). He is also second all-time in program history in passing yards (5,945) and passing touchdowns (52)….D'Emilia finished the 2019 season with a .601 completion percentage as he broke his own single-season record set last year (.600)….Santavicca finished 12th all-time in program history with 2,006 rushing yards….Hairston cracked the 1,000-yard receiving barrier for his BSU career. He is currently ninth all-time at Bridgewater State in receptions (86) and 14th in receiving yards (1,012).