By Matt Noonan
Resiliency has been the key for Bridgewater State’s football team this season.
Two weeks into their 2016 campaign, Joe Verria’s crew was starring at a possible third-straight setback when Worcester State commenced their contest with the Bears by scoring a first quarter touchdown. The advantage didn’t last long, however, as Bridgewater State overcame the one-score deficit to en route to their first of six-straight MASCAC victories with a 34-14 win over the Lancers.
“We got on a run (after losing) our first two games of the season, but now we have won six in a row,” said Verria, who was tabbed the program’s interim head coach in August.
“We have won games in all kinds of different ways. Close games, high scoring games, so these kids are very, very resilient and they are finding ways to close games out now.”
The Bears’ six-game winning streak hasn’t been a cakewalk – Bridgewater State has won four of their six contests by at least a touchdown, including a six-point victory over Plymouth State during a dramatic double-overtime win last month, which saw the Bears rally to force an extra session.
“The double-overtime win over Plymouth (State) was an amazing game and win for our team, especially being down 14-0 (at the start of the game),” said Verria.
While winning six-straight games is a testament to the resiliency and hard work this Bears squad has displayed over the past few weeks, Verria and his squad know their momentum will be tested this Saturday when they visit Framingham State in what could determine a possible MASCAC regular season champion.
Bridgewater State – currently first in the MASCAC with a 6-0 ledger – can lock-up their first conference crown in eight seasons with a win over the Rams. A victory for the Rams, however, would setup a scoreboard watch the following week – the last weekend of the regular season.
“They’re a very, very good football team,” Verria said of his team’s upcoming opponent.
“We have lost to Framingham State the past three years, so I think everyone from day one has been gunning for them. They have been the perennial champion and until they’re dethroned, they still are the perennial champion in my opinion.”
Verria knows his team will need to play their best football against a Rams squad that enters the contest winners of three-straight. Both teams posses strong offensive and defensive units – the defense has been key for both squad’s this season.
Framingham State overcame a three-point deficit at the break last season to defeat Bridgewater State, 27-17. The win provided the Rams with their sixth consecutive MASCAC title, along with an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“Coach (Tom) Kelley has done a tremendous job over there, (leading them) into the national playoffs … they’re a good football team, they’re a good team,” said Verria.
“(Our players) have been focused (this week), so you can just feel there is a difference.”