LEWISTON – For the Colby defensive unit, revenge was sweet.
After seeing its offense stopped twice on successive goal-line stands in the first half, the Colby defense turned in a defensive stand of its own and held off a rallying Bates with a 10-6 NESCAC football victory at Garcelon Field on Saturday.
After quarterback Trevor Smith had stopped the clock by grounding the ball on second-and-3 from the Colby 7, Bates (1-5) had two cracks at scoring in the final 16 seconds. On third down, Smith was flushed from the pocket and scrambled first, to the right, and then back to the left, before firing an errant pass intended for wide receiver Brian Gallagher in the back of the end zone.
On fourth down, Smith dropped back before quickly tucking the ball and heading up the middle. The sophomore buried his way into the line in an attempt to gain a first down and temporarily stop the clock. But as the pile above him rolled off and the ball was spotted, Smith’s run was marked inches shy of a first down just inside the 5.
“We had our chances,” said Bates coach Mark Harriman, “but we came up short.”
Colby coach Ed Mestieri had used a timeout with 40 seconds left during the final Bates drive to settle his team. After a 26-yard hook up from Smith to Evan Tierney and a 6-yard slant to wideout John Squires, he decided to call his defensive unit over to the sideline.
“I give Tom Dexter, our defensive coordinator, credit,” said Mestieri. “He just told them if (the Bobcats) come out in this set, they’re going to run this play. If they come out in another set, they’re going to run that play.”
Mestieri also had a simple message for them.
“I just told them to get their asses to the quarterback and to keep playing.”
Bates’ offense struggled through the first three quarters. Held to 82 yards on the ground, the Bobcats were limited in getting Squires, their leading receiving, open. He was held to five catches for only 69 yards.
“They did a nice job on him all day long,” said Harriman. “They played one underneath him and one over him. “
Trailing 10-0, Harriman pulled Smith at the start of the fourth and replaced him with junior Ryan Katon, who immediately connected on a 40-yard fade down the right sideline to the 6-foot-7 Squires and give the Bobcats the ball at the Colby 29.
A gain of 9 yards on a counter to the left by Teddy Downs and a 2-yard run by fullback Jared Jammal moved the ball to the 18.
After a loss of 4 yards and an incomplete pass, Katon found freshman receiver Kevin Davis streaking past cornerback Richard Newton down the left sideline. Just as Davis was catching the ball in stride near the goal line, Colby safety Derrick Beasley came over to jar the ball loose for an incompletion.
“I thought I was late,” said Beasley, who later intercepted Katon. “I saw the fade and I reacted. I went for the ball, but I thought he caught it. I didn’t know until I got up and heard the crowd.”
On the next play, Lester Batiste flushed Katon from the pocket and fellow defensive end Ryan Veillette was there to sack the quarterback for a 4-yard loss.
The Bobcat defense sacked quarterbacks Nick Kmetz five times and held the visitors to just 68 yards on 40 carries. With just over five minutes remaining in the game, the defense turned in its biggest play of the game. Kmetz (17 of 26 for 197 yards) had his pass batted straight up into the air, and the ball fell into the hands of defensive lineman Tyler Kuehl, who rumbled 71 yards down the sideline before Kmetz brought the big man down inside the 1.
Jammal barreled his way into the end zone on the next play.
The Colby offense was thwarted on successive possessions in the second quarter and came away with just three points. With its run game stymied, Colby went to the air in the third quarter. On first down at the Bates 41, Mestieri had a perfect call to combat the Bates’ blitz. Kmetz dropped back for a screen pass to the left. Hit just as he threw the ball, Kmetz found halfback Spencer Gopaul with an army of blockers in front of him and plenty of open room to run. Gopaul soon found an alley and raced his way to the end zone to put Colby up 10-0.