Bobcat Beat: Bates football seeks big bounce back against Jumbos

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Trinity’s Matt Patry, left, breaks up a pass intended for Bates’ Noah Stebbins during Saturday’s game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup with Tufts, the Bates College football team is concerned mainly with the Bates College football team.

Specifically: getting better.

The Bobcats’ season is off to a harsh start, particularly last week’s 51-0 loss at home to Trinity.

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“We’re still in that phase of we’ve got to make sure that we’re taking care of what we need to take care of,” Bobcats coach Mark Harriman said. “Obviously, our focus is on what Tufts is doing, but I still think besides game planning for them, there’s still some fundamental things that we need to do a better job with — ball security, things like that.”

Turnovers and subpar punt coverage doomed the Bobcats in the first quarter last week, as the Bantams racked up 31 points in the first 15 minutes.

“They had the short field literally almost the entire first quarter,” Harriman said. “With an explosive offense like that, that’s not a good situation to be in.”

This Saturday, again at home, Bates faces another formidable offense.

Jumbos quarterback Ryan McDonald ranks fifth in the NESCAC in passing yards (211 per game) and second in rushing (107 per game). His 69 percent completion percentage also ranks second in the conference.

Last week, McDonald ran for 122 yards and 277 yards of total offense in the Jumbos’ 24-17 overtime setback to Wesleyan.

Harriman said that Tufts utilizes McDonald’s athleticism with read zone plays, which is different from the primarily dropback passers the Bobcats have seen in the first two weeks.

“It’s a different mentality,” Harriman said. “They’ve got some talented receivers and good running backs as well, but he’s been the driving force for them, and we certainly need to, hopefully, get him on his heels a little bit.”

Injuries and young cubs

Bates captain and playmaking slotback Frank Williams may return from a shoulder injury Saturday, but if he does, Harriman said it would be in a limited role. Sandy Plashkes, who has started both games at quarterback, will miss the Tufts game, and starting offensive lineman Dylan Rasch was scheduled to have a midweek MRI.

If there was a highlight last week, it was the play of first-year players Jaason Lopez and Milan Lemon, who flashed their potential on Bates’ many kick returns against Trinity.

Following the NESCAC’s short preseason, the Bobcats are becoming increasingly aware of what they have in young players such as Lopez and Lemon.

“Both those guys will continue to get more snaps as they continue to figure out the offense,” Harriman said. “They’re definitely guys that you’ll see more of as the season progresses.”

Soccer stars

The Bates women’s soccer team is on a four-match unbeaten streak, including Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Thomas. The Bobcats (5-1-1) are off to a program-best 2-0-1 start in the NESCAC, and are in the NCAA New England Division III top-10 for the first time in years.

Leading the charge is senior goalkeeper Sarah McCarthy, of Rockville Centre, New York, who was named the NESCAC player of the week.

McCarthy made 23 saves and gave up only one goal over 200 minutes for Bates this past weekend. She stopped 17 shots in a 1-0 win over Wesleyan, and turned away six in a 1-1 draw with Williams. Three of those six saves came during overtime.

In six games this season, McCarthy has made 43 saves and allowed only four goals while recording three shutouts.

The Bobcats host Trinity (1-3, 2-5-1) for their first NESCAC home game Saturday at 11 a.m.

Bates goalkeeper Sarah McCarthy was named the NESCAC player of the week for her performances last week.

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