By Brian Willwerth
BRIDGEWATER, MA – The Framingham State Rams are celebrating a championship in the inaugural season of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC).
They wrapped up the title on Saturday afternoon with a thrilling, 35-28 victory over Bridgewater State. The decisive score came when Melikke Van Alstyne ran it in from nine yards out with just 29 seconds remaining.
“I’m elated,” said Rams’ head coach Tom Kelley. “I’m happy for our seniors.
“We won our first MASCAC championship, and the first time in history we’ve beat Bridgewater four years in a row.”
For a game that featured nine touchdowns in all, it started out as a defensive battle. The Rams got on the board first when Van Alstyne scored his first touchdown of the game from one yard out. The Rams led 6-0 after the PAT was blocked.
The Bears responded with a 65-yard drive, capped off by quarterback Mike McCarthy’s five-yard run. The score remained 7-6 until the final minute of the half.
That’s when the game turned into a shootout.
Rams quarterback Matthew Silva found Jared Gauthier from 14-yards out. Gauthier out-jumped the defender, and Framingham State was back on top, 13-7, but not for long.
The Bears got a good kickoff return, a personal foul on the Rams, a long pass play from McCarthy to Matthew Green, followed by McCarthy’s one-yard run, his second score of the afternoon. Bridgewater State took a 14-13 lead into the locker room.
In third quarter, McCarthy was picked off by Tyllor McDonald, and the Rams capitalized on the turnover, with Van Alstyne scoring from a yard out to make it 20-14.
Then, after McDonald intercepted McCarthy again, Gauthier’s 4-yard reception made it 27-14.
“Our defense has come up big all year long, and they came up big again,” said Kelley.
But McCarthy and the Bears would not fold. Playing in his final home game, he led his team 79 yards in 11 plays, and once again called his own number for his third rushing touchdown of the game. That made it 27-21.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Rams appeared to stop the Bears on 4th and goal, but a pass interference penalty gave BSU new life. On the ensuing play, McCarthy appeared to be going into the end zone, but fumbled. Fortunately for the Bears, offensive lineman Mike Duran was in the right place at the right time, and fell on the ball for the touchdown. With 3:51 left, the Bears had re-taken the lead, 28-27. The difference in the game was the blocked PAT in the first quarter.
But FSU would not panic. Silva calmly led his team 55 yards in seven plays, with Van Alstyne scoring the winning touchdown – his third of the game – in the final minute. The senior finished with 158 yards on 24 carries. Silva was 22-of-36 for 230 yards. The Rams celebrated the conference title on the field afterward.
“We’ve been a second half team all year long,” said Kelley. “When we got the ball with a couple of minutes to go, I was real confident that we were going to at least kick a field goal.”
It was a heartbreaking Senior Day for McCarthy and the rest of his teammates. He rushed for a team-high 95 yards and threw for 117.
Framingham State closes out the regular season at Worcester State, while Bridgewater State travels to Mass. Maritime for the 35th Annual Cranberry Cup.