LEWISTON — After three successful seasons with defense as it calling card, Bates College football simply is asking the young group charged with carrying on that tradition to get better from now through November.

The Bobcats accomplished that Saturday, even if it was not immediately tangible on the scoreboard that overlooks Garcelon Field after a 37-14 loss to NESCAC champion Amherst in the season-opener.

Bates surrendered 556 yards but clearly improved from coin flip to final gun. Ben Coulibaly’s sack punctuated a goal-line stand, and another tackle for loss by the junior linebacker halted an Amherst march and led to a missed field goal, both in the third quarter.

Until freshman Jack Hickey squirmed loose for a 32-yard touchdown for the Lord Jeffs with six seconds remaining, Bates didn’t allow Amherst into the end zone after intermission.

“The second half I thought our defense played well, except for the very end there,” Bates coach Mark Harriman said. “They really responded to the situation that they had been in. Obviously we would like to have the second quarter back.”

Amherst answered Shaun Carroll’s 80-yard scoring gallop on Bates’ first play from scrimmage with four consecutive touchdowns, two in the first quarter and another pair in the second.

Advertisement

Five different players scored in all for the Lord Jeffs, who are ranked No. 3 in New England Division III and extended their winning streak to 12 games.

Sophomore quarterback Reece Foy, making only his second career start, completed 22 of 33 for 286 yard to lead Amherst.

“We like to think that’s typical of our offense,” Foy said. “This year we have some pretty big expectations of ourselves. Guys have put in a lot of work in the offseason. More importantly the coaches have put in a lot of work.”

Foy found Nick Widen for an 11-yard score to cap a quick march and immediately match Carroll’s home run.

Nick Kelly’s 5-yard run closed out a 13-play, 90-yard drive to give Amherst the lead. Jackson McGonagle continued the onslaught with a 23-yard run, and a Foy quarterback sneak punctuated another mighty march of 18 plays and 80 yards.

Bates hasn’t beaten Amherst since 1999. The two previous meetings were much closer: 20-7 here in 2011 and 14-6 on the road a year ago.

Advertisement

“We’ve been here on the days we couldn’t get a first down until the second half,” Harriman said. “But we still need to be able to step up against a team like that and play better from an assignment standpoint and an execution standpoint.”

Carroll concluded with 13 carries for 107 yards for Bates, whose triple-option attack isn’t geared to play quick-strike, catch-up ball.

Sparked by its defense, then three consecutive third-down conversions and a pass interference penalty on a fourth down, Bates made a fourth-quarter rally. Patrick Dugan’s 17-yard strike to Frank Williams set up a 2-yard plunge by Ivan Reese with 13:10 to go.

Bates forced an Amherst three-and-out but couldn’t move the ball with its own series. Foy connections of 26 yards to Rob Thoma and 11 to Devin Boehm set up Charlie Wall’s 31-yard field goal for a 31-14 cushion with 6:21 left.

Amherst’s defense allowed only one opponent to score more than 10 points on its way to the conference title in 2014.

“We owe the defense a lot of points. Let’s just be frank. They saved us a bunch last year. Giving up 14 points, that’s a hell of a game. And it’s weird, because for us that’s a lot,” Foy said. “Great job by our ‘D.’ Hats off to them. We know what to expect from them. They’re going to be a top defense in this league. They’re going to play hard, and we just have to do our job.”

Advertisement

Boehm caught 10 passes for 125 yards. Kenny Adrinka chalked up 20 carries for 104 yards to lead the Lord Jeffs.

Amherst had 345 yards at halftime.

“We had a bunch of young guys, at one point two freshman defensive backs out there. Getting up to game speed against a really good team can be tough,” Harriman said. “A lot of it is a matter of little things. When you’re young, those are the first things that go. It’s being in the right place to make a tackle. Those are things that will get fixed.”

Dugan was 11-of-16 for 117 yards through the air, including seven grabs for 87 yards by Mark Riley.

Parker Chapman recovered a fumble to close it out for Amherst’s defense, which held Bates to four first downs before halftime. Holding penalties sabotaged three Bobcats’ drives. Evan Boynton and Sam Caldwell sacked Dugan to stymie two others.

“Offensively it’s a little bit of an enigma, because if you add the plays that we got penalties on … Again, would’ve, could’ve, should’ve doesn’t count in anything but horseshoes,” Harriman said. “We’re not that type of team (to come back from a large deficit), and we didn’t help ourselves out.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: