LEWISTON — Over the last two years, the Bates Bobcats have reached levels of football success not seen at Garcelon Field in more than a quarter of a century.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, beating Middlebury remains an elusive milestone.

Middlebury picked up its 25th consecutive victory in the NESCAC series with a 28-17 victory over shorthanded Bates at Garcelon Field Saturday.

Bates (2-3) played without eight of its season-opening starters, yet nearly matched the potent Panthers’ offense yard for yard. The Bobcats took the lead three times in the first half only to have Middlebury shut them out in the second half and score 14 unanswered points.

Middlebury senior QB McCallum Foote completed 35 of 56 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The preseason All-American spread the ball around, completing at least five passes apiece to five different receivers, including Brendan Rankowitz (eight catches, 96 yards) and Williams Sadik-Khan (8-56, TD).

Bates received strong games from freshmen running backs Ivan Reese (21 carries, 101 yards in his first collegiate start) and James Semmonella (6-55). Junior QB Matt Cannone rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown while completing 8 of 18 passes for 108 yards and an interception. Freshman Nick LaSpada completed two of his four pass attempts for 26 yards and a touchdown to junior receiver Mike Tomaino. Senior Kevin Davis led all Bates receivers with three catches for 48 yards.

Middlebury (4-1) outgained Bates, 417-388.

Cannone gave Bates a 7-0 lead on its second drive of the game with a five-yard touchdown run.

Middlebury tied it late in the first quarter on Foote’s five-yard TD pass to Sadik-Khan, but the Bobcats jumped out in front again on their ensuing drive with a 28-yard field goal by Charlie Donahue.

The Panthers converted on 4th-and-2 to extend their next drive, which they capped with Matt Rea’s one-yard run for a 14-10 lead.

LaSpada stepped in at quarterback for the Bobcats and led a nine-play, 62-yard drive that put them back in front when he found Tomaino in the back of the end zone with a six-yard TD pass. Bates carried a 17-14 lead into intermission.

Both teams had to punt on their first three possessions of the second half, but Middlebury took the lead on its fourth when Foote fired a nine-yard TD pass to Grant Luna late in the third quarter.

Donahue missed a 23-yard field goal attempt on the Bobcats’ next drive. The Panthers pulled away on Joey Zelkowitz’s three-yard touchdown run with 5:32 remaining.

Junior cornerback Mike Kelleher led Bates defensively with 12 tackles (eight solo). Andrew Kukesh, a preseason All-American at safety, moved to outside linebacker for the first time in his career and made nine tackles.

Bates travels to Colby next Saturday to open CBB play at 1pm.


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