Bates Football earned the 2012 Colby-Bates-Bowdoin trophy this past weekend with a hard-fought 14-6 victory over the Bowdoin Polar Bears in Brunswick, Maine.
The win moves Bates to 4-3, with a strong chance to beat Hamilton next weekend and finish the season 5-3. Although the game was played at Bowdoin, the Bobcats possibly had just as many fans in attendance as the Polar Bears, as the Bates community made the trip en-masse to support their team, which is indicative of the relative success Bates has enjoyed this season.
The story of the game was Bates’ opportunism on defense, as the Bobcats were able to force three fumbles, an interception, and stop Bowdoin on three separate fourth-down conversion attempts.
Bates struggled to move the ball with consistency throughout the game, but was able to generate just enough scoring opportunities to stay ahead of the Polar Bears. Bates was plagued by an inability to convert on third downs, as their triple option attack is predicated on keeping third down attempts manageable distances.
“Bowdoin came out in a couple of different fronts that we haven’t seen which slowed us down a bit, but we were able to stick together as a unit to figure it out and get a win,” explained junior offensive lineman Michael Bernstein.
After a series of punts and an unfortunate fumble deep in their own territory, Bates’ first score came when Senior Quarterback Trevor Smith threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kevin Davis.
Smith continued his strong season with a respectable day overall, throwing for 100 yards on 11-18 passing and the touchdown to Davis, while rushing for 25 yards on 13 attempts. Davis was essentially Smith’s sole target on the day, catching 9 passes for 87 yards and the score.
Bowdoin’s offensive attack typically utilized four wide receiver sets in order to spread out Bates’ defense and find gaps on the ground and through the air.
While Bowdoin did present the Bobcats with some problems on this side of the ball, often moving the ball effectively downfield, Bates kept the Polar Bears out of the end zone and forced timely turnovers.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot early but we were able to turn it around and force them into some favorable downs for us and make some big plays, especially on fourth down,” noted junior safety Andrew Kukesh.
Sophomore linebacker John Durkin led the team with 11 tackles, 8 of them solo, while senior inside linebacker Josh Chronopoulos also had 11 total tackles. Kukesh continued to exhibit why he may be the best safety in the league, recovering a fumble and recording a toe-tapping interception in the third quarter.
Particularly impressive for the Bobcats were the three stops on fourth and short situations, where the defensive line flexed its muscle to stuff Bowdoin running backs and end scoring opportunities for the Polar Bears.
Bates’ final score came in the third quarter on a two-yard touchdown run from senior captain Pat George, who finished the day with 40 yards rushing on 12 carries. Sophomore slotback Mac Jackson had a breakout performance with 61 yards rushing on only 6 carries, averaging more than ten yards per carry.
Bates’ defense allowed only two field goals in the entire game, and Bates was able to run the clock out in the fourth quarter to seal the 14-6 win.
After guaranteeing their first .500 season in ten years with this victory, the Bobcats will host the Hamilton Continentals in a game that they fully expect to win next week.
“It’s all about sticking to our guns and grinding it out. Next week we have to do what we’ve been doing all year and play physical and hard every snap,” illuminated Bernstein. Bates will host Hamilton on Garcelon Field at noon on Saturday.