Bates College players celebrate after defeating Bowdoin College in Lewiston on Saturday, securing a fourth consecutive CBB title. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
LEWISTON — The Bates College football team claimed its fourth consecutive CBB title by defeating Bowdoin 24-17 at Garcelon Field on Saturday.
It’s the first time Bates has won four straight Colby-Bates-Bowdoin titles, and it means that the members of Bobcats’ 15-player senior class will conclude their careers having won the CBB all four of their years.
“It’s amazing,” senior captain Frank Williams said. “I can’t put it into words. It’s great. Winning four CBBs for these guys here, the alumni, it’s amazing.”
It also means that, like those seniors in 2014, this year’s freshmen start their careers with wins over Bowdoin and Colby.
“First time, feels good,” freshman quarterback Brendan Costa said. “I know it’s a huge deal to the Bates community to have it here. Four in a row, we’re going for five in a row next year.”
Those freshmen were more than participants in Saturday’s win.
For instance, freshman defensive back Devin Clyburn sealed Bates’ victory by intercepting Bowdoin quarterback Noah Nelson at the Bobcats’ 3-yard line with less than a minute left in the game.
“Devin, unreal play,” Costa said. “He always talks about being one of the best on the field, and today he showed it. He played awesome.”
Bates’ lead was built with the help of the young legs of Costa, the fleet-footed freshman quarterback, and slotback Jaason Lopez.
Costa ran for 170 yards on 20 carries. He gained 149 of those yards in the first half, including a 70-yard touchdown run.
“The defense kind of broke down a few times, and I got loose,” Costa said.
Lopez ran six times for 79 yards, highlighted by a 37-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“They’re two really dynamic players,” Bates coach Mark Harriman said. “It’s nice to have guys like that so when … you call a play, maybe it doesn’t go exactly right, you still got a chance to make something happen out of it.”
Lopez’s touchdown gave the Bobcats a 17-3 lead, and they appeared to be on the verge of pulling away from the Polar Bears, especially after Jack Maritz sacked Nelson on the next drive to force a punt.
But Bates went three-and-out and kicked the ball back to Bowdoin at the Bates 46. After a long run inside the 10, Nelson threw an 8-yard touchdown to Gregory Olson, making it 17-10 with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats again took a two-score lead when Oak Hill graduate Kyle Flaherty ran in from a yard out to make it 24-10.
Bates again seemed poised to put Bowdoin away, but Jon Lindgren, who made several positive plays throughout the game, muffed a punt that Bowdoin’s Caelan Etti recovered.
On the next play, Nelson connected with Olson again, this time for a 26-yard score, making it 24-17 with 13:23 remaining.
Bates had its next drive extended when Milan Lemon recovered a muffed punt. But the Bobcats couldn’t capitalize as kicker Grant DeWald missed his first field goal of the season.
The Polar Bears next drive ended when Max Breschi sacked Nelson on third-and-long.
“A lot of their game is timing,” Breschi said. “And so, as long as we were able to get pressure on him and interrupt that timing, I felt like that was big for us.”
Bates advanced into Bowdoin territory, but fumbled the ball away. The Polar Bears drove to the Bobcats’ 34, but turned it over on downs.
The Bobcats punted it back to the Polar Bears, who took over at their own 43 with two minutes remaining.
Nelson led Bowdoin to two first downs before his pass from the 35-yard line was picked off by Clyburn.
“It’s nice to have a corner that’s 6-foot-2,” Harriman said. “He did a great job, went up and got the ball, and, you know …”
“Noah Nelson played out of his mind today,” Bowdoin coach JB Wells said. “And, you know, there’s a guy, trying to make a play, he’s under a little bit of duress, he tries to make a play — I mean, that was going to be the day, it came down to one play.”
Nelson completed 34-of-55 passes and finished with 302 yards passing. Most of those came in the first half when the Polar Bears passed their way down the field on their first three drives of the game.
However, from those possessions, they only came away with a total of three points.
The first drive ended with a blocked field goal by Lindgren. Andrew Sisti kicked a 22-yard field goal on the second drive.
The third drive made it down to the 10-yard line. Bates stuffed Bowdoin a three straight runs to force a turnover on downs.
“We had some great stops on defense,” Harriman said. “Holding them to three points with the way they were moving the ball I thought was really, for our defense, great.”
The Polar Bears, meanwhile, did everything they wanted, except score.
“That’s the tale of the tape is you have to finish,” Wells said.
While the Polar Bears passed for more than 300 yards, they only ran for 31.
Costa only completed 1-of-5 passes, a 23-yarder to Marcus Ross, but Bates still outgained Bowdoin 367-333. The Bobcats ran for 344 yards, their most in a game since Nov. 2012, and averaged 6.7 yards per carry.
NOTES: Lindgren led Bates with 16 tackles (11 solo), while Breschi had 11 tackles (four solo), was in on 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble. … Williams ran for 63 yards on eight carries. … Olson caught nine passes for 98 yards, and teammate Bryan Porter had eight catches for 87 yards. … Bates honored former track standout and longtime PA announcer Al Harvie at halftime. Harvie also taught and coached at Edward Little High School.
Bates College’s Jon Lindgren (19) tries to haul down a Bowdoin College runner during their game in Lewiston on Saturday. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)