WATERVILLE — From the turf to the team tent to the victory bell, the postgame scene Saturday at Colby College’s Harold Alfond Stadium was one of pandemonium.

A few Colby football players yelled as they rang the bell with such force that it could be heard all throughout this city; other players, with tears of joy in their eyes, tackled one another in celebration; students ringing cowbells dressed in cowboy gear belted out John Denver’s “Country Roads” as the last seconds ticked down on the Mules’ 38-17 victory over rival Bates College.

“This is just a great night for these kids,” said Colby head coach Jack Cosgrove. “Our seniors, this is their fourth straight win over Bates. Before they got here, we had lost four straight to Bates. They really wanted this, and it’s really special for them.”

It was not an easy win for Colby, which trailed by 10 late in the first half after Bates scored 17 unanswered points. Yet the Mules flipped the switch late in the second quarter, turning the Bobcats over five times and scoring the game’s final 31 points to take Round 1 of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin rivalry series.

Colby (2-1) stalled after picking up an initial first down on the opening drive but pinned Bates at its own 3-yard line with a booming punt. After forcing a three-and-out, the Mules took a 7-0 lead as Matt Hersch found Brendan Sawyer for a 24-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter.

Yet Bates (0-3) would answer, and it would answer on three consecutive drives. The Bobcats got a 1-yard touchdown run from Reza Badiee on the ensuing drive, went up 10-7 early in the second quarter on a 35-yard Archie Green Jr. field goal and then stretched the lead to 17-7 as Colton Bosselait found Mohamed Diawara for a 65-yard score.


Colby, though, forced a fumble on Bates’ next drive and cut the lead back to three points as Hersch ran for a touchdown with 8 seconds left in the half. The Mules would then tie it early in the second half after a Nick Donatio interception set up a 32-yard field goal.

“We weren’t doing our job in the first half, and we knew we had to get back to basics and start getting it done,” said senior captain Javon Williams. “We know that, once we did that, we would start making plays, and our offense would start getting some points.”

After Colby sacked Bosselait twice midway through the third quarter, Hersch found Jack Sawyer for a 50-yard pass that put the Mules up 24-17. A Williams interception in the fourth then led to a 12-yard run from Hersch that made it 31-17, and a Luke D’Aloia interception in the final minutes set up a 30-yard run from Keon Smart for the game’s final points.

“We talk about playing complementary football, and that’s something we did tonight,” said Hersch, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 194 yards. “You just get that energy from the defense, and you take it and run with it. From there, you just kind of build off of it and keep going.”

More than half of Hersch’s passing yards went to Sawyer, who finished with four catches for 104 yards. Smart added 71 yards on 16 carries for Colby on the ground. Defensively, Julian Young had 12 tackles, Rome Banaitis registered both of the Mules’ sacks, and Marc Dougherty added an interception and a fumble recovery.

Bosselait completed 23 of 37 passes for 264 yards for Bates with Diawara catching six of those passes for 107 yards. The sophomore quarterback threw for 176 yards in the first half before Colby made some defensive adjustments that neutralized the visitors’ passing game in the second.


“We just dropped back into our zones, and I think that changed things for us a little bit,” Williams said. “Our big guys up front were doing a great job getting a rush, our linebackers were taking everything in the middle, and the secondary was stepping up and making plays.”

Bates, though certainly underdogs coming into Saturday night, played like anything but for much of the first half. The Bobcats forced two straight three-and-outs between their three straight scores, and it took Dougherty’s fumble recovery for Colby to halt the visitors’ momentum.

“I thought Bates really came out with a great game plan in the first half, and they gave us everything we could handle,” Cosgrove said. “We were fortunate to get that turnover and late score and go into the half down just three points. That really made a difference for us.”

The victory put Colby within one win of capturing its fourth consecutive CBB title. The Mules, who have won the consortium every year since Cosgrove came on as head coach in 2018, can win it with a victory over Bowdoin College on Nov. 12 in Brunswick. 

Colby, though, has five more games before it can turn its focus to the Polar Bears. It’s a game that will have their full attention once the second week of November arrives, but on this night, the Mules had no agenda but to celebrate a win in the first leg of the three-way showdown.

“This is the last time I’m going to play Bates, so it’s extra emotional for me,” Williams said. “Our students, parents and faculty were awesome tonight, and they showed us so much love. It’s great that we could respond and earn a win for them.”

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