The Bates College football team’s season starts a week earlier than usual, and there’s no easing into 2017 for the Bobcats.
They open the new NESCAC nine-game season Saturday at Amherst, followed by Trinity and Tufts at home.
“We want to get out of the gate fast,” 20-year Bates coach Mark Harriman said. “If you look at the front part of our schedule, it’s a little front-loaded … a couple of our (conference’s) perennial powers early, and then Tufts has really come back in the last couple years. So those first three are going to be great tests for us. It’s going to be something that really tells us where we are.”
First up are the Mammoths, whose streak of three straight NESCAC championships was wrecked by a 4-4 season in 2016.
“They’re a good team,” Harriman said. “They had some injuries and things last year that probably affected them early, but they’re, obviously, one of the premier teams in our conference.”
Harriman said the key for the Bobcats will be consistency on both sides of the ball.
Amherst always is among the best defensive teams in the conference. Even in a down year, the Mammoths allowed only 13.9 points per game — which is, by the way, exactly the same amount as Bates scored in 2016.
So it will be important for the Bobcats to move the ball and not let drives sputter.
Defensively, Harriman said Bates has to limit the big plays Amherst produces out of its spread offense.
“We certainly have to play well to beat any team in this conference, and that’s no different this week,” Harriman said. “If we … take care of the football and create some field position on defense and special teams, I think we got a good opportunity.”
Going back to 2015
Under the NESCAC’s eight-game schedule, Bates alternated opening its season against either Amherst or Trinity.
Last year was an off-year for the Bobcats and Mammoths, so they haven’t gone head-to-head since 2015, when Amherst won 37-14.
To scout the Mammoths, Harriman and the Bates coaching staff watch film of Amherst’s 2016 games. Just as valuable, though, is the film of the previous meetings between the two teams.
That’s because the Bobcats’ triple option offense and 3-5 defense are different from the rest of the conference.
“The last time we played Amherst was ’15, so we can’t really get a grasp on their personnel as much as we can a little bit about what they were thinking and how they wanted to attack us,” Harriman said.
Saturday’s football game, which kicks off at 1 p.m., will be broadcast live online at www.nsnsports.net/colleges/amherst.
Northeast Sports Network announced earlier this month that it will broadcast Bates College games over the internet this school year.
NSN will broadcast 98 Bates games over several sports this in 2017-18 at no cost to viewers at www.NSNSports.net.
NSN, based in Vermont, also is the official internet broadcasting partner for the NESCAC championships and nine of the conference’s school, including Bates rivals Bowdoin and Colby, so most of the Bobcats’ home, road and postseason sporting events will be viewable this year.
A pair of Bates runners share the first of 2017-18’s NESCAC performer of the week honors.
Bobcats senior captain Katherine Cook (South Burlington, Vermont) and sophomore Olivia LaMarche (Lynnfield, Massachusetts) were recognized for their performances at the season-opening Bates Colby Class Races on Saturday.
The pair tied for first in the sophomore/senior race, finishing the 2.84-mile course in 16 minutes, 53 seconds. That time sets the school record for the fastest on Bates’ home course.
National team rower
Bates College will be represented at this year’s World Rowing Championships later this month.
Elizabeth Sonshine, a 2012 Bates graduate, will compete in the women’s quadruple sculls for the U.S. National Team from Sept. 24-Oct. 1 in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.
Sonshine is the first Bates women’s rower to qualify for the world championships and the second to make the U.S. National Team. Nicole Ritchie, a 2009 graduate, earned two silver medals at the 2015 Pan-American Games.
“When Sonny was set to graduate she came to me and asked for an honest opinion about her chances to advance to the next level of rowing,” Bates head coach Peter Steenstra said in a news release. “I told her that she’s looking at an 8-12 year process that begins today and you might not make it. She didn’t balk. Then I said, ‘Your life will be rowing and rowing only.’ She smiled and said, ‘sounds like a dream.'”
Sonshine could become the third Bates alumnus to row at the Olympics in 2020. Andrew Byrnes (2005 graduate) won gold in 2008 and silver in 2012 for Canada. Mike Ferry (1997) rowed for the U.S. at the 2000 games.
Bates College’s 2017 football schedule
Sept. 16: at Amherst, 1 p.m.
Sept. 23: vs. Trinity, 1 p.m.
Sept. 30: vs. Tufts, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7: at Williams, 1 p.m.
Oct. 14: at Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
Oct. 21: vs. Middlebury, 1 p.m.
Oct. 28: at Colby, 1 p.m.
Nov. 4: vs. Bowdoin, 12:30 p.m.
Nov. 11: at Hamilton, noon