Bates quarterback Brendan Costa winds up for a pass against Trinity at Garcelon Field in Lewiston in October 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

After COVID-19 derailed the 2020 season, the Bates College football team returns with a new head coach, Ed Argast, and plenty of experience on the roster this season.

The Bobcats ended 2019 on a high note, winning the final two games of the year, including pulling off the program’s biggest comeback victory in 50 years in a 26-21 win at Hamilton in the season finale. The Bobcats return to the gridiron Saturday for the first time in nearly two years for a 1 p.m. kickoff against Amherst at Garcelon Field.

ON OFFENSE

Fifth-year senior quarterback Brendan Costa set the program record for total yards in one season in 2019 with 1,739. He decided to return to Bates and use his final year of NCAA eligibility.

“It was obviously a big decision, putting my whole life on hold,” Costa said in a Bates College press release. “After originally deciding not to come back, I changed my mind in December of 2020. I was going to go straight to graduate school and finish my eligibility there. But I decided I love my team. I love this program.”

“There is unfinished business,” Costa added. “I couldn’t leave without actually attempting to finish it.”

Two of the Bobcats’ other four quarterbacks have starting experience, in senior Jack Bryant and junior Liam Foley.

Bates is thinner at running back, but senior Christian Olivieri makes the move to the position from wide receiver for the 2021 campaign.

“I love having Christian back there,” Costa said in the release. “I think he’s probably the fastest kid at Bates. He is tough to handle. And once he gets on the edge, there’s no catching him.”

Seniors Caleb Bolden and Garrett Evans will also see action in the backfield for Bates. The coaching staff is excited about first-year running back Jamil Mouehla. 

Bates top three wide receivers, who made a big splash against Bowdoin and Hamilton to finish the 2019 season, are back on board.

Senior Sean Bryant caught 15 passes for a team-high 300 yards and four touchdowns, including three against Hamilton in the 2019 season finale. He and fellow senior Derek Marino are the tallest receivers on the team, both measuring in at 6-foot-3. Senior Jackson Hayes was Costa’s favorite target two years ago, tallying a team-high 23 catches for 282 yards and three touchdowns.

Led by senior captain Quinn Woods, the offensive line will be tasked with keeping Costa on his feet.

“They’ve got good size, they’re fairly athletic and they’re smart,” interim head coach and offensive line coach Ed Argast said in the press release. “Everything you’d look for in an offensive line, they have. They’re a close-knit group. They like each other and spend a lot of time around each other when they’re off the field.”

Joining Woods on the line as senior leaders are Nick Florio and Erik Stephens. Stephens is well-traveled, having started his career at Bates as a tight end, moved to the defensive line and now returning to the offensive side of the ball. At 6-4, 306 pounds, junior Cameron Winslow is the biggest lineman for Bates. Junior Jake Parsons brings good size to the table as well at 6-3, 300 pounds.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Fifth-year senior safety Anthony Costa, who is not related to Brendan Costa, leads a Bates secondary that returns a lot of playmakers from 2019. Costa came to Bates as a triple-option quarterback before moving to the defensive side of the ball. He was forced into the lineup as a sophomore in 2018 due to injuries, and took advantage of the opportunity.

Defensive coordinator Keith Davis expects senior Owen Straley, junior Mohamed Coulibaly and senior Thomas Formus to lead the secondary.

Bates has some depth in the secondary who should be able to rotate in this season. Davis said fans can expect to see first-year Anthony Morton Jr., sophomore Jarrin Sato and junior Quinn Kieselowsky get significant playing time this season.

Junior Tony Hooks and senior captain Mike Bulman lead the linebackers into the season. Hooks was Bates’ leading tackler as a first-year in 2019, finishing the season with 59 total tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Bulman is an impact player in his own right, having finished second on the team to Hooks in tackles two years ago, with 45. Bulman finished the year with 5.5 tackles for loss. Seniors Spencer Adams and Tyler Hamilton also return to further bolster the linebacker corps.

Senior defensive ends Jack Ryan and Nolan Potter give Bates fans a lot to be excited about on the defensive line.

Davis is intrigued by first-year 275-pound nose tackle Finn Duffey, who has been turning heads in practice.

“Duffey is a dominant nose tackle who plays hard, plays fast and gives tremendous effort,” Davis said in the press release. “We have a veteran group who are leading the way, helping these young guys learn day in and day out. I’m excited about it.”

When it comes to special teams, the Bobcats have a pair of players who can both kick field goals and punt.

Senior Simon Redfern is the most experienced kicker. He made five PATs and a field goal in 2019. Redfern is joined by sophomore Archie Green Jr., who has impressed Davis in camp.

“When you see those guys kick, they’re amazing right now,” Davis said. “That’s probably going to be the toughest part is that you want to get both those guys on the field because they can both kick well, so I think they’re both going to have a great year.”


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