LEWISTON — Bates College’s defense broke down on third downs and then Wesleyan pulled away for 44-13 NESCAC football win at Garcelon Field on Saturday.

The Cardinals’ first three touchdowns came on third-down plays as they built a 24-6 lead over the Bobcats.

“Third down is the hardest down for the offense. For them to turn into touchdowns is amazing to me,” Bates coach Malik Hall said. “To me, that speaks to our effort, that speaks to our attitude, that speaks to our will.”

Wesleyan enjoyed favorable field position for most of the game, including its second drive, which started at its own 49-yard line.

Through mostly short runs up the middle, the Cardinals worked their way to the Bates 32, where they faced third-and-3. Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ran through a hole on the right side and when he got past the line of scrimmage he found a wide-open space to the end zone. His 32-yard run made it 7-0 with 2:16 left in the opening quarter.

Piccirillo was a handful for the Bobcats throughout the game, using his running (15 carries, 85 yards) to set up his passing (12 for 15, 185 yards, three TDs).


“If your game plan is to stop their best player, and you can’t stop him, you’re probably going to lose,” Hall said.

Bates was one play away from forcing a three-and-out on Wesleyan’s next drive. But on third-and-4, Piccirillo completed a slant to Dario Highsmith, who dodged a few tacklers and then won the footrace to the end zone for a 58-yard scoring play.

“Very pleased with our offense’s running the ball,” Wesleyan coach Dan DiCenzo said. “Our offensive line did a great job. And, obviously, our quarterback’s a great player, and the dynamic that can run and throw is tough to defend.”

Bates responded to that score with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was jump-started by a pair of personal foul penalties and an offsides call on the Cardinals.

Later in the drive, Bates quarterback Brendan Costa found Marcus Ross for a 25-yard gain down to the Wesleyan 1-yard line. Two plays later, Costa threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Christian Sanfilippo, making it a 14-6 game after Taj Gooden blocked Justin Foley’s extra point.

Wesleyan added three points to its lead early in the second half with a 42-yard field goal by Patrick Wolff.


On the Cardinals’ next offensive possession, they faced a third-and-5 from the Bates 12. Piccirillo worked his magic again, hooking up with Hightower for another touchdown that extended the lead to 24-6.

Bates’ offense turned the ball over on downs on its next drive, and on Wesleyan’s next play, Matthew Simco scored on a 35-yard flea flicker pass from Piccirillo.

The Bobcats went three-and-out for the third time in the second half, and the Cardinals again quickly capitalized. On their first play of the ensuing drive, running back Sean Penney appeared to be stopped, but he spun to shed the would-be tacklers and ran in for a 44-yard TD. The lead was now 37-6.

“If you don’t tackle, and you don’t block, you can’t win. Period,” Hall said.

The Cardinals scored touchdowns on three consecutive offensive plays.

“It was nice to see,” DiCenzo said. “We’ve been able to score the ball this year, but we haven’t had a lot of big plays.”


Bates went three-and-out again, and soon after the start of the fourth quarter Dan Smith replaced Piccirillo as Wesleyan’s quarterback.

After a few handoffs, Smith dropped back to pass on third down, but Bates’ Tyler Harrington sacked him and knocked the ball loose. Ramon Ruiz picked it up, and then the 5-foot-9, 261-pound defensive lineman showed some speed by outrunning everyone for a 68-yard touchdown return that made it 37-13.

“I’m proud of Razor Ramon,” Hall said. “We made some plays … but right now it’s not consistent enough to win games.”

Wesleyan added a late touchdown run by Charlie McPhee on fourth down with 17 seconds left.

Sampson Dube then officially sealed the win by intercepting Costa’s heave as time expired.

Costa finished 11-for-24 for 78 yards. Only one of those completions and three of those yards came after halftime, though a handful of his passes were dropped.


The Bobcats’ offense was held to 36 second-half yards.

“Our run game clicked early, and (Wesleyan) reeled it in and we just didn’t get anything going after that,” Hall said. “I thought we dropped some critical balls, and we got to catch the ball better, got to block better.

“Every level – offense, special teams, defense, all got us, all the way through. We didn’t play well. They played better than us.”

Wesleyan’s Sam Green, left and Bates quarterback Brendan Costa, #3, both look to pounce on a fumble from the Bates QB during Saturday’s football game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Bates’ Quinn Woods makes a diving attempt to tackle Wesleyan’s David Estevez to no avail as the Cardinal flew up the field for a big gain. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Bates’ Tyler Harrington hauls Wesleyan quarterback Dan Smith to the ground after causing a fumble during Saturday’s game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Wesleyan’s Matthew Simco hauls in a perfect pass after getting separation from Bates’ Coy Candelario, right, before scampering into the end zone for a touchdown during Saturday’s game. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Wesleyan’s Sam Green forces Bates quarterback Brendan Costa out of the pocket and to the sidelines where he had to throw the ball away during Saturday’s football game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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