The first win for Bates football couldn’t have been sweeter. On Saturday afternoon, the Bobcats edged Colby in Waterville, Maine by a 10-9 margin, maintaining their hopes of back-to-back CBB titles for the first time since the 1966-1967 season.
Bates relied heavily on their defense and special teams, both of which made massive second half plays to lift the team to victory. The first of these key plays came from junior cornerback Trevor Lyons, who intercepted a rushed pass from Colby quarterback Gabe Harrington and returned the ball 31 yards for a touchdown to give the Bobcats their first lead of the game with 10:47 remaining in the third quarter.
“We knew Colby liked the quick game. During the game it’s something you sort of feel out,” Lyons commented. “[Junior] Brandon (Williams) and I are aggressive corners. We watch film together four times a week and we like to step up and make the big plays. It feels awesome.”
The second major play transpired in bizarre circumstances, as it looked like the Mules had tied the game at 10 apiece following a Christian Sparacio one-yard touchdown run and John Baron extra point early in the fourth quarter. However, because the referee had yet to give the signal that he was ready for play, Colby was forced to retake the kick. Sophomore lineman Collin Richardson blocked the second attempt, allowing the Bobcats to hold on to their slim advantage.
In a quiet first half, Colby had the best opportunities to score. While Bates was held scoreless, the Mules managed a second quarter 26-yard field goal from Baron and entered the locker room up 3-0.
Bates owned the third quarter, tying the game up on their first drive of the second half on sophomore Grant De Wald’s 27-yard kick, before Lyons picked off Richardson and raced in for the go-ahead touchdown on Colby’s first possession of the quarter. Despite briefly bending on Sparacio’s touchdown, the Bobcat defense never broke. Junior linebacker Mark Upton led the unit, registering nine tackles and two sacks on the day.
First-year punter Justin Foley also starred for the Bobcats. Foley punted nine times, averaging 38.3 yards and pinning Colby inside their 20-yard-line an incredible seven times. He earned NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his great effort.
“If you look at how he changed field position for us numerous times, that is just a phenomenal effort,” head coach Mark Harriman said. “He’s handled kickoffs and punts from day one for us and is doing a great job.”
Bates will hope that Foley and the special teams unit can continue to execute at a high level on Saturday, when they face off against rivals Bowdoin in another crucial CBB encounter. The Senior Day kick-off is scheduled for 12:30 PM.