In their final game of the season, the Bridgewater State University football team fought all the way to end, in more ways than one.
The Bears captured the 35th annual Cranberry Bowl over Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Saturday, 45-20, to finish the season at 6-4. Senior quarterback Mike McCarthy had 402 yards of total offense and three touchdowns to lead the team.
McCarthy earned his third straight Lee Harrington Most Valuable Player trophy, becoming the first player to do so in Cranberry Bowl history. Also, McCarthy earned Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Football Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“Third straight, that’s kind of unheard of,” said Bridgewater State head coach Chuck Denune of McCarthy. “I’m not sure we will ever see that again. He went out with a bang, no doubt about it.”
With the Bears up 31-14 late in the fourth quarter, the game quickly got out of hand when a one-on-one altercation ended in a bench-clearing brawl between both teams. Despite both teams piling onto the field, no ejections were handed out.
“The brawl in the fourth quarter was wild,” said senior captain and safety Dillon Huber-Parker. “There was a lot of emotion brewing through the first three quarters and the few plays before the brawl, things started to get out of control, and then climaxed when a few guys got into it.’
Bridgewater State took a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter after a five yard touchdown run by McCarthy and then with 12 seconds left in the quarter, McCarthy connected with junior wide receiver Matt Green on a 33-yard touchdown pass.
The Buccaneers were able to tie the game at 14 going into halftime, but the second half belonged to the Bears.
A 27-yard field goal from junior Jared Diorio with 8:39 left in the third quarter started the second half scoring.
Less than a minute later, senior captain Mike Gentili returned one of the Bears’ five interceptions of the day 32 yards for a touchdown and 24-14 lead.
“The defense played unbelievable,” said Huber-Parker, who had two interceptions and was named MASCAC Football Defensive Player of the Week. “Everyone stuck to their assignments, hustled around the field and contributed to one of our best games of the year.”
The Bears struck again just three minutes later when junior running back Blaise Branch rushed one in from 40 yards out.
Mass. Maritime added a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but two late rushing touchdowns, courtesy of McCarthy and Gentili, put the game way out of reach.
For Gentili, the linebacker and running back had a dominate showing, as he scored touchdowns on both sides of the ball. Gentili finished the game with two interceptions and four carries for 22 yards.
“I’m lucky that the coaches trust me enough to put me on the field in just about every situation imaginable,” Gentili said. “My first pick I was lucky enough to get under the dig route in time to grab it, and the second one bounced right out of the receiver’s hands into mine, with nothing but green grass in front of me.
“I couldn’t possibly think of a better last carry of my college career than breaking for a long touchdown.”
With another impressive performance, McCarthy broke the Bears’ career passing mark with 4,672 yards in four years and also became Bridgewater State’s leader in total offense in a career.
McCarthy finished the season with 2,000 yards passing and 18 touchdowns and he rushed for 850 yards and 17 touchdowns.
McCarthy’s senior year has cemented his legacy as one of the Bears’ all-time great quarterbacks.
“I will leave [the legacy] up to everyone else, I just feel blessed that I was able to play in 41 straight games and stay healthy throughout my career,” McCarthy said. “Transferring to Bridgewater was the best decision that I have ever made.”
At the start of the season, the Bears were looking to do better than 6-4. But with the rash of injuries they suffered throughout the season, going out with a win was the perfect ending.
“Any time you can end a season and a career with a win in a rivalry game and trophy game it’s a great way to go out,” Gentili said. “I’m so proud of this senior class and I can’t imagine another group of guys I would have wanted to spend it with.”
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.