BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Bridgewater State University football team has been the voted as a co-favorite to win the New England Football Conference (NEFC) Bogan Division in 2012.
In a voting of the league's coaching, Bridgewater State and defending Bogan Division champion Framingham State University each received four first place votes, two second and two third place votes and garnered 58 out of a possible 64 points. Westfield State University finished a distant third in the Bogan balloting with 41 points.
Last season, the Bears posted an overall record of 7-3 and tied for second in the Bogan Division with a 5-2 divisional mark.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Chuck Denune (8th Year, 49-21, .700), the BSU football team returns ten starts on offense and eight on defense for the 2012 campaign, including seven All-NEFC Bogan Division selections as well as the Bogan Division Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Senior defensive tackle Paul Melicharek (Glen Rock, N.J.), senior linebackers Alex Monteiro (Portsmouth, R.I.) and Justin Cruz (Dartmouth, Mass.), junior defensive end Tate Doehler (Lakeville, Mass.) and junior cornerback Eddie Jewel (Amherst, Mass.) all return to the starting lineup on defense after garnering All-Bogan Division honors a year ago.
The Bears defense limited opponents to just 16.0 points and 231.4 yards of total offense per game in 2011. Melicharek notched 46 tackles including 10.5 for loss a year ago. Monteiro posted a team-high 63 tackles as well as four pass breakups while Cruz added 36 tackles to go along with five pass breakups and an interception. Doehler recorded 44 tackles, with 14.5 going for loss, and led the team with five sacks. Jewel, in his first season with the Bears, made 33 tackles, intercepted three passes and returned a fumble 67 yards for a touchdown in a week five win over Coast Guard.
Also returning to the starting lineup on defense are senior safety Brian Smith (Lowell, Mass.), junior cornerback Vincent Henry (Middleboro, Mass.) and junior safety Dillon Huber-Parker (Longmont, Col.). Smith registered 24 tackles in 2011 to go along with an interception and three pass breakups. Henry posted a team-best six pass breakups and finished tied with Jewel for the team lead in interceptions with three. Huber-Parker notched 28 tackles, including seven for loss, and had a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown in a week eight win over Maine Maritime.
With two starters on the defensive line lost to graduation, senior Adam Toman (Barrington, R.I.), juniors Edgard Raymond (Brockton, Mass.) and Carl Hollant (Brockton, Mass.), and junior transfer Stewart Lamberton (Guilford, Conn.) are potential candidates to take over the starting spots on the d-line.
Leading the way for the Bears on offense are senior All-Bogan Division offensive lineman Mike D'Attilio (Sr. T, North Attleboro, Mass.) and Kurt Merrick (Sr. G, Mashpee, Mass.). The Bears o-line paved the way for 3,517 yards of total offense in 2011 including 2,096 yards on the ground. Sophomore Blaise Branch (Brockton, Mass.) rushed for 463 yards in eight games and averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Junior quarterback Mike McCarthy (Edgartown, Mass.) is back to direct the BSU offense in 2012. McCarthy has thrown for 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns over his first two seasons as the Bears' signal caller. He has also rushed for 1,118 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Joining D'Attilio and Merrick on the Bears' veteran offensive line are returning starters junior tackle Mike Duran (Bridgewater, Mass.), junior center Cameron Moitoza (Norton, Mass.) and sophomore guard Brendan Flaherty (Woburn, Mass.). Duran and Flaherty started all ten games a season ago while Moitoza started each of the last six.
Junior Chris Constantine (Hingham, Mass.) was the teams' leading receiver in 2011 with 29 catches while also rushing for 198 yards on the ground. In two seasons with the Bears, Constantine has hauled in 49 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 487 yards and two more scores. He is also averaging 24.7 yards on kickoff returns and returned two for scores in 2010.
Senior wideout Jake Scott (Somerset, Mass.) caught 26 passes for a team-leading 425 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with the Bears in 2011. Scott also rushed for a touchdown as he was tied with McCarthy for second on the team in scoring with 48 points. Classmate Matt Monahan (Wrentham, Mass.) also returns to the Bears' lineup after hauling in 12 receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.
Senior back Ben Desmarais (South Hadley, Mass.) brings some depth to the Bears' offensive backfield. Desmarais has carried the ball 67 times over the past two seasons for 343 yards and a pair of scores.
Sophomore Jarred Diorio (Kingston, N.H.) handled most of the place kicking duties in his rookie season. Diorio was 19-for-21 in point after tries and connected on two field goals with a long of 34 yards. He also averaged 54.0 yards on 28 kickoffs.
The Bears' roster will be bolstered by a number of talented transfers including senior running back Mike Gentili (Leominster, Mass.), junior tight end Nick Jablonski (Assonet, Mass.) and junior offensive tackle Kyle Cocozza (Barnstable, Mass.).
Gentili averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns over 15 games for Curry College in 2008 and 2009. Jablonski comes to BSU via Division I UMass Amherst, while Cocozza played at Division II Assumption College.
Sophomore wide receiver Jordan Henderson (Hyannis, Mass.), who joins the team after missing all of 2011 with an injury, starred at Barnstable High School where he caught 63 passes for 1,119 yards during his senior season of 2010.
The 2012 season gets underway on Saturday, September 1st, with Bridgewater traveling to Springfield College for a 7:00pm kickoff. NEFC Bogan Division play begins on Friday night, September 21st with the Bears hosting Framingham State at seven. The 34th Annual Ocean Spray Cranberry Bowl will take place on Saturday, November 3rd at noon on the campus of Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The game marks the regular season finale for the Bears for the 15th consecutive year.