By Matt Noonan
BUZZARDS BAY, MA – On Thursday afternoon, members of the Bridgewater State and Massachusetts Maritime football teams came together for the 34thannual Ocean Cranberry Bowl luncheon, which was presented by Ocean Spray.
Both teams have experienced a great deal of success this season and once the luncheon concluded, both head coaches discussed their team’s season, as well as their outlook for Saturday’s contests, which kicks off at 12PM.
Last season, the Bears defeated the Buccaneers, 38-35 and claimed the annual “scoop.” Mass. Maritime’s last victory came in 2010 when they won on their own turf.
Bridgewater State HC Chuck Denune:
What is so special about this particular rivalry?
“It means so much. I think one of the biggest things besides the fact that [there’s a] tradition is that there’s a reminder in the back of your head that it could be the last game for so many different young men and that’s probably the one thing that carries a lot of weight on your shoulders knowing that aspect, but other than that it’s just real exciting. To come down and [have luncheons] like [the one on Thursday] gives your guys a feeling of that extra experience and any trophy game typically has some meaning, but this one, to survive has long as it has, and have both institution support it means a lot. The logistics between Mass. Maritime and Bridgewater – we’re so close to each other, a lot of these guys played against each other and with each other in high school, so it’s bragging rights for the rest of your life, so it’s important.”
Do you have a fond memory of the Cranberry Bowl?
“There was a game that I forget the year, but we came down as a heavy favorite and got ourselves into a dogfight and Chris Joyce saved us during the last seconds [with] an unbelievable catch in the corner of the end zone to win the game at the end, and it doesn’t compare to all the worse memories. I never knew how bad it was going to hurt to lose that scoop and we really want to try and avoid that [on Saturday].”
Ever since the Framingham State loss, your team has been on a roll. What’s the secret to your squad’s recent success?
“The way they handled the loss was probably the biggest thing. You can put your hands in your face and cry about it or you can get back on the horse and that’s what these guys did. They got right back up and they fought hard and got better every week from that point on. They put it away, put it to bed, and they looked forward, so that’s been the biggest thing. We’ve tried to stay one week at a time and just continued to get better and here we are at 8-1 and we’re only thinking about getting to 9-1.”
If you’re able to come away with a victory on Saturday, do you think its possible your team will receive a bid for the NCAA tournament?
“I hope so. I don’t want to look past Saturday’s game because we’ve got to do that first, but if 9-1 with our body of work, I feel we deserve it and there seems to be somewhat of a biased against the Northeast sometimes, but our body of work speaks for itself, so I hope the selection committee sees it that way. We’ve beaten everyone out of the conference that we’ve had to, we scheduled Springfield College for a reason, and hopefully they finish strong and make it look even better.”
Was beating Springfield in week one a momentum boost?
“I think it was not so much for ourselves, but for people outside of the New England Football Conference to say they’re playing with a team that traditionally does very well, and if you can beat them then hopefully people can start [taking our conference seriously]. If you look at the New England Football Conference this year and games against the Liberty League and Empire Football League, it represented itself tremendously. Wins against Union College and WPI and there’s lots of different wins out there from our conference, and times have changed a little bit, so I hope [the victory] will provide us a chance for an at large bid.”
Finally, what’s the game plan for Saturday’s contest against Mass. Maritime?
“We’ve got to stop that offense. They’re second in the nation right now as far as yards per game, so we’ve got to try and control that a little bit. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to do the best we can to stop that offense and try to control the ball. It’s all going to come down to blocking and tackling like every football game does.”
Mass. Maritime HC Jeremy Cameron:
Talk about being apart of this particular game. What does it mean to you as a coach?
“Every game is big, but obviously when you get the administrations involved and the kids together it just magnifies it and because we’re so close, we recruit the same kids a lot, guys have friends on each team, so it certainly adds to the rivalry.”
What’s your fondest memory of this particular game?
“My fondest memory was when we beat them in 2010 because we hadn’t beat them in about 18 years, so I felt like when we could finally beat them that maybe we’ve kind of turned the corner, so we did that in 2010 and last year was a 38-35 game, we competed right to the end and this year I think we matchup pretty well together, so the biggest thing is being able to beat them that one time and know that we can do it again.”
You’re team has experienced a great deal of success this season. What’s been the difference from past seasons?
“We’ve got a number of good skill players and when you look at the statistics, we’ve got two receivers with over 50 catches, the third leading receiver’s got 25-30 receptions. Our tight ends are now catching the ball where last year they didn’t have any receptions, and we’ve got two running backs that can play and two quarterbacks that can play, so we spread it out and I think we’re reasonably tough to defend because we don’t rely on necessarily one player.”
Was there one particular game this season that jumpstarted your team?
“The Coast Guard game was because we were losing at the half and we came out in the third quarter and were able to move the ball and it was back-and-fourth, back-and-fourth, but at one point when the kids panicked they stuck together and that was really the turning point for us.”
Did you anticipate that your offense was going to endure a great amount of success prior to your first game?
“I really didn’t and to be honest, as the games are unfolding I never really have a sense that we’re moving the ball as effectively as we are at times because we run a lot of plays, so your numbers get inflated. There were games where we ran 110 plays, 115 plays, so we just run a lot of snaps and we get more yards, so I really don’t know how good we are, but when you move it and don’t turn the ball over you get more opportunities and we do have really good skill players. Our quarterbacks are good, our running backs are good and our receivers are good, but I never thought we would put those types of numbers up and we still feel like we left a lot of points out there. In our three losses, we fought out there, but didn’t score enough points, so there’s room for improvement and hopefully this week we’ll be at our best.”
Lastly, what’s the game plan for Saturday?
“I think both teams are going to score points. They’re really good on defense, we hope we can move the ball with some regularity, and we know they’re going to score, so I think it’s going to be a back-and-fourth type of game. I don’t think it’s going to be a shootout, but I don’t think either defense is going to shut the other offense down. I think it’ll be whoever makes the fewer mistakes, special teams, all the hidden yardage and that’s it.”