Bates’ Kyle Flaherty runs past Hamilton defenders during Saturday’s season finale. Flaherty, a Litchfield native and former Oak Hill High School standout, ran for 86 yards in his final colllege game. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON — In the span of less than three minutes, Bates’ season finale spiraled out of control, and all because punter Justin Foley’s punts never got a chance to spiral.

A pair of blocked punts turned a one-point Bobcats lead at halftime into a two-score deficit after three quarters. Bates never recovered, losing 38-13 against Hamilton on senior day in a NESCAC football game at Garcelon Field on Saturday.

“Eighty-something percent of the time a punt is blocked, that team loses,” Bates coach Malik Hall said. “Unfortunately, we lost two blocked punts. One turned into a touchdown, the other precipitated a touchdown following, and it unravelled from there.”

Hall said that was really the storyline of his first season at the helm of the Bobcats (0-9). Some “pretty good” first halves — Bates led at half twice and was tied in two other games — followed by disappointing second halves.

The Bobcats led 13-12 at halftime, and traded punts back and forth with the Continentals (3-6) for the first four drives of the third quarter. The fourth punt — Foley’s second of the half — was blocked by Dana Marrocco before Jared Schwartz returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. A Bates three-and-out was followed by another blocked punt, which Ian Esliker deflected out of bounds.

Joe Schmidt ran the ball in from 10 yards out on the next play to make it 25-13.

“We’ve had success this year with blocking a few punts,” Hamilton coach Dave Murray said. “We won the Wesleyan game with a blocked punt, we blocked a couple punts against Bowdoin. So that group has had some success, and they got a couple today, so that was awesome.”

Bates tried to claw back, running senior Kyle Flaherty seven straight times (for 26 yards) to close out the third quarter.

“I mean, today I came in, I just, I knew I needed to empty the tank and sell out. There was nothing left for me, obviously,” Flaherty, a Litchfield native, said.

The Bobcats fumbled the ball away on the first play of the fourth quarter, however, and Joe Park ran for a 42-yard touchdown five plays later — and one play after a running-into-the-kicker penalty on a Hamilton punt gave the Continentals a first down.

Bates played more composed in the first half. Park ran for 41 yards on Hamilton’s second play from scrimmage to get inside the Bobcats’ 10-yard line, but Bates held the Continentals to just a short field goal by Sam Thoreen. The next two Hamilton drives ended in punts — both of which were downed at the Bates 2-yard line, the second leading to a safety — and the third ended in a sack of quarterback Kenny Gray on fourth down.

The Bobcats turned that turnover-on-downs into a touchdown drive, capped off by a 4-yard pass from Kevin Claflin to Matt Golden.

Claflin, a senior, was thrust into the starting quarterback role after the Bobcats’ top two quarterbacks both went down with injuries in recent weeks. A defensive back prior to this season, and a wide receiver to start his senior campaign, Claflin later threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Hayes.

“It was amazing. I mean, Kevin’s a special guy. Here on senior night, I mean, it’s tough,” Flaherty said. “We lost our starting quarterback a couple weeks ago, lost our second-string quarterback, and Kevin just didn’t even look twice. He just stepped in and did what he did. I think he had a good game. He worked hard, and, I mean, I can’t ask for a better teammate, better friend, really.”

The Continentals got to Claflin in the second half, forcing three second-half interceptions. He finished 7 of 22 for 103 yards.

Flaherty had a game-high 29 rushes for 86 yards.

Park, a freshman, ran 17 times for 187 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s been a really pleasant surprise,” Murray said. “He had a heck of a game. We were able to run the football with him. We didn’t expect this kind of year out of Joe, and he was terrific.”

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Bates College’s Kevin Claflin looks to throw as Hamilton’s Carmine Bruno pursues during Saturday’s game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston. Claflin, a wide receiver, played quarterback Saturday due to injuries to the Bobcats’ quarterbacks. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)Bates’ Kevin Claflin gets off a throw against the defense of Hamilton’s Justin Leigh (5) and James Ball (90). Claflin, a receiver, played quarterback Saturday due to injuries to the Bobcats’ quarterbacks. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)Hamilton’s James Ball looks down at Bates’ Kyle Flaherty after Flaherty was tackled during Saturday’s game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)Bates running back Liam Spillane stiff-arms Hamilton’s Tim Russell during Saturday’s game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)Bates College’s Jackson Hayes gets hit by Hamilton’s Colby Jones during Saturday’s game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)Bates’ Kody Greenhalgh runs with the ball as Hamilton’s Carmine Bruno closes in during Saturday’s game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)


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