Founding Father and lover of kites Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Although Mr. Franklin died in 1790, I am sure if he were walking the earth today, he would’ve added “Bates College Football losing to Amherst” to the list.
The Bobcats’ promising first-half flash of offensive proved to be insufficient as Bates fell to the Amherst Mammoths by a score of 27-13.
Last week’s Bates College Bobcast featured Head Coach Malik Hall vowing to avenge 2018’s historically poor season.
“Now, we know what we’re doing, we’re going to do it right. We’ve been killing it all camp and we’re going to have a very explosive offense, and a very explosive defense where we just let our athletes play,” he said.
Despite Bates’ plans to move on from the past, the game did not get off to the start Bates was looking for. Amherst won the coin toss and elected to defer, seeking to test the new-and-improved Bates offense early. The questions surrounding Bates’ offense would be left unanswered, as Bates fumbled on the opening kickoff, giving Amherst great field position unnervingly early.
Amherst took over on offense, but after a few incomplete passes and a quarterback draw by Amherst quarterback Ollie Eberth ‘21, kicker Connor Kennelly ‘22 converted a 24-yard field goal to put the Mammoths up 3-0. To some, it appeared that Bates was picking up right where it left off.
The Bobcats were able to put the shaky start behind them, as quarterback Brendan Costa ‘21 marched the Bobcats down the field, utilizing both the pass and run games he had worked so hard to develop during training camp. Costa connected with Liam Spillane ‘21 five times over the course of the drive, including a 2-yard touchdown throw to award Bates with their first touchdown of the 2019 season.
The Bobcats were unfortunately reminded not to get ahead of themselves as Simon Redfern ‘22 had his extra point attempt blocked, continuing the woes of the Bobcats’ special teams.
Bates then showcased their improved defensive abilities as a series of punts by each team quieted the offensive explosion that opened the game.
Early in the second quarter, Amherst was able to tie the game up after short punt from Bates gave Kennelly excellent field position to sink his second field goal of the game.
Late in the first half, the Bobcats were on the prowl for another score. Costa was able to find Parker Smith ‘21 and Lopez for big pickups on the Bobcats’ third trip to the redzone on the day. Costa then took matters into his own hands as he rushed eight yards for the touchdown, putting the Bobcats up 13-6 after Redfern sunk the PAT.
Things were looking bright for Bates coming into the second half, but Amherst was not prepared to go down without a fight. Junior quarterback Ollie Eberth opened up the second half with a 20-yard run. Eberth then found James O’ Regan ‘21 for a 45-yard touchdown pass to tie up the score at 13.
The Bates offense was quiet for the remainder of the game, making no trips to the redzone and adding a number of offensive turnovers to compound the team’s struggles. Meanwhile, Amherst turned up the heat as Eberth found O’Regan again for a 42-yard touchdown and Luke Mallette for a six-yard touchdown.
Despite the strong first-half performance, the Bobcat offense ran out of steam and fell to the Mammoths 27-13.
While it may be easy to focus on the negatives, this Bates performance against Amherst was an encouraging offensive improvement from last year’s game in which the Bobcats only mustered 7 points. Last year, the Amherst defense averaged only 70.8 yards against the run—the Bobcats more than doubled that with 154 yards rushing.
Christian Olivieri ‘22 lead the team in receiving yards with six catches for 58 yards. Olivieri and quarterback Costa are looking to take the team to new heights following flashes of great play against Amherst.
“Through last year’s season, off-season, and this year’s season so far, Costa and I have definitely improved our on the field chemistry as well as off the field,” Costa said.
For Bates, Amherst continues to be the proverbial white whale. The last time the Bobcats defeated Amherst in football, it was Sept. 25, 1999. This defeat marks the tenth consecutive loss for the Bobcats whose last win came on Nov. 4, 2017.
Despite the defeat, this start shows real promise, and the Bobcats are remaining optimistic as they take on Middlebury in the home opener looking to secure their first win in more than 680 days.