The fall of 1960 brought several changes to the Bridgewater college campus. On September 1st the school transitioned from the Bridgewater State Teachers College to Bridgewater State College. The name change recognized the growing scope of the curriculum and was partly fueled by the desire of a majority of students of the ten Massachusetts teachers colleges to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree instead of the Bachelor of Education degree.
But maybe even more importantly, at least to the sports-minded members of the college community, a formal football program returned.
Though underdogs, Bridgewater had won their 2nd season opener against the Brown University Freshmen. This next game saw the Newport Islanders out-playing the Bears on BSC’s home field at the time, Legion Field.
The October 1960 Campus Comment editorialized:
“The introduction of football to Bridgewater State College symbolizes the new image of our school. Every major college needs a major sport, and it is hoped that football will go hand in hand with the expanding curriculum to create the image that we all have in our minds of an even greater Bridgewater.”
Under head coach Edward Swenson, the coaching staff included backfield coach Frank Jardin, line coach Harry Lehman, trainer Manny Costa, and manager Don Wrightington. The November 11th game was designated the First Annual Homecoming Game and it was a central part of the college’s inaugural Homecoming Week End.
A small but determined squad took to the field for the first football season since 1927. Most of the team were freshman and sophomore students; roughly a third were new to football. Results were mixed. The opening game victory over Nichols College (18 to 0) was followed by a loss to Newport Naval Station (35 to 6). The home opener against Maine Maritime Academy brought a disappointing defeat to the Bears, with a 40 to 0 final score. The Homecoming game ended no more happily, with a loss to the Brown University Freshman, 32 to 0. Stand-out players included Dave Morwick, Paul Callahan, Lee Rendell, and John Kelliher.
The following years saw increasing rosters, longer seasons, and growing interest and support from students, faculty and alumni. The second season also brought a winning record (3 wins, 2 losses).
The 1961 Homecoming game was played the first weekend of November. An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed beautiful fall weather, boundless spirit, and a parade leading up to the Homecoming Game. The Bears didn’t disappoint, beating Nichols College by a score of 20 to 0. Paul Callahan was voted the year’s Most Valuable Player. Coach Swenson was aided by assistant coaches Charles Varney, Arthur Cullati, and George Carter, with Don Wrightington again serving as manager.
Following the second season of play, concerns were raised in the Campus Comment that the demands on Ed Swenson as both coach and athletic director might be too high or that admissions standards might be lowered in order to attract better football players. But in June 1962, the Campus Comment expressed optimism about the 1962 season:
“We can’t say enough about the fact that bigtime football arrives at BSC when the Bears step on the field next November 3 against the University of Bridgeport at the latter’s home field. Win or lose, we shall be acknowledged athletically as of then.”
Off the field, head coach Ed Swenson and assistant coaches Charles Varney and George Carter continued to develop a successful football program for the college. Leaders on the field included co-captains Paul Callahan and Lee Rendell, Dave Morwick, Bill Wassel, and Bob Peluso (who was named the season MVP). Though the 1962 season record was disappointing, the 1963 college yearbook reflected:
“The 1962 one and five record does not give a true picture of football in its third year at Bridgewater. The team, after starting with a win over Maine Maritime Academy, was plagued with injuries and top caliber opposition. Yet, through it all, the young team never lost its spirit.”
In 1963 head coach Ed Swenson was joined by assistant coaches David Deep, Charles Varney, and Joseph Lazaro. The opening game loss to Frostburg State College didn’t deter the Bears from beating the Quonset Airbees 18 to 8 the following week. However, the Bears only won one more game during the season, against Nichols College in the school’s November Homecoming game.
Outstanding players during the season included co-captains Robert Peluso and Robert Lane (the season’s MVP), Marty Rizzo, Rick Moriarty and Bob Williston. A disappointing record on the field was eclipsed by tragedy off the field, however. In the final game against Brockport State of New York, junior Marty Rizzo sustained a head and neck injury. He died from the injury the following January. Rizzo’s number, 30, was permanently retired in his honor.
Disappointing may be the only adjective that can describe the Bears’ 1964 season. Senior tackle Steve Govoni was lost to the season after suffering a broken leg in the opening game against Frostburg State. The following week saw the Bears fail to score against the Central Connecticut Blue Devils, who had tallied 36 points on the scoreboard by the end of the first half. The Bears scored their first touchdown against Newport Naval Air Station in the third game, but they couldn’t rally for any more points until the game against Quonset Naval Air Station two weeks later.
The Campus Comment from October 30, 1964 singled out several players for their outstanding efforts, including captain Bob Mason (who “has to be rated as the best defensive player to be seen in any game the Bears have played this year”) and senior Bill Jenkins (“Some of Bill’s receptions have been nothing less than spectacular”). By the end of the season, however, the Comment declared that “Football ‘64’ has been a failure.” The season record ended with no wins and seven losses for the Bears.
Even with the 23 returning players, including 10 of the 11 offensive starters, the Bears struggled in their 6th season. Coach Swenson was again assisted by David Deep, Charles Varney, and Joe Lazaro, with football alum and 1962 MVP Bob Peluso also joining the coaching staff. Co-captains Joe Domingos and Bob Williston led a squad of 42 players.
The Bears failed to score in 4 of their 7 games. Despite taking early leads against Frostburg State, Newport Naval Air Station, and Nichols College, BSC fell to those opponents as well. The Nov. 15, 1965 Campus Comment summed up the Bears’ second winless season in a row with a cartoon of a bandaged and battered football with the caption “Kicked Around.”
Season number 7 for the Bears started on a very promising note: co-captains Geoffrey Fanning and Broni Baronowksi led the largest group of returning players to date, and the coaching staff of Edward Swenson, Charles Varney, David Deep, and Joe Lazaro was joined by the experienced former coach of Geneva College, Peter Mazzaferro.
An opening game win over the Springfield College JV squad was followed by two one-point losses (to Frostburg and Curry Colleges). The Curry game was especially exciting, as the Bears came back from a 20-0 deficit at the half to almost win the game on a final two-point conversion play. The fourth game was the homecoming match-up against Maine Maritime at Legion Field, where the Bears evened out their season record with a 23-8 victory. The following Friday night game was dominated by the opposing Quonset Naval Air Station, who shut down the Bears’ offense with a 36-7 win.
Game six against Nichols College was tied at 14 all at the half. A third two-point conversion for junior Tom Humphrey provided the margin of victory in the Bears’ 21-20 win. With a season record of 3 wins and 3 losses, BSC faced Brockport State College on a snowy afternoon for their final game of the season. Brockport proved the only opponent of the season to completely cut off the Bears offense, winning 20-0.
Though the record reflected 4 losses, the 1966 season was the beginning of the BSC football program’s recovery. Five players – Geoffrey Fanning, Leon Weinstein, Charles Worden, Tom Cook, and Bill Matheson – were named to the New England College Football Conference first team. The 1960 season had brought the return of football to BSC; the 1967 season would bring a vibrant, winning tradition to the BSC campus.
Though over half the 1967 team were freshmen, a core group of 13 returning letterman brought depth and experience to the field. In the season opener, the Bears faced Frostburg State College, an opponent the team had never defeated. Yet a strong defense prevented Frostburg from scoring until the final minutes of the game, and the Bears prevailed by a score of 13-6. A loss to Maine Maritime Academy the next week was followed by three Bears’ victories in a row. Even with losses in the last two games of the season – possibly due to the absence of key players due to injuries – the Bears had finished with their first winning record since 1961.
Assistant Coach Peter Mazzaferro had taken on an increasing role as Ed Swenson prepared to step down as head coach at the end of the 1967 season. Both could take pride in the accomplishments of the team that year: Bill Clifford and Bill Matheson were selected to the New England Football Conference first team; Tom Humphrey, Herbie Lynch, Paul Stella, and Leon Weinstein were selected to the second team. And the Bears were well positioned to dominate on the football field in the coming years with Coach Mazzaferro at the helm.
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