Wesleyan Spoils ‘Back to Bates’, Edges Bates in 27-24 Heartbreaker


Theophil Syslo/Bates College

The Bobcats came up short against the Wesleyan University Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.

Back to Bates is a special weekend for all that attend Bates College. For many, it serves as a reunion with loved ones after a strenuous first month at college. For others, it signifies the commencement of an annual competition to outdrink your parents over the course of a weekend. For a few, it serves as an opportunity to cash in on the affection of the many golden retrievers, serving as the first release of dopamine since their first Econometrics class. 

The Bobcats attempted to add to the festivities of the weekend in their annual matchup against Wesleyan University, hoping to end their two-game losing streak and secure their first win of the season. 

As parents, alumni, and students littered the Garcelon bleachers on the first Saturday in October, expectations were high. Despite the depressing performance last week at Middlebury, many understood that the Bobcats had a legitimate chance at winning if they could put together a cohesive performance. 

The game began like every other—Wesleyan kicker Daniel Yoon ’24 launched the ball to the Bates four yard-line and the game was underway. The game instantly took on a different tone from last week’s. Mohamed Diawara ’23 returned the opening kickoff forty-three yards nearly into Wesleyan territory. The return was Diawara’s longest of the year and set the tone for the epic clash on the horizon. 

Brendan Costa ’22 took the field, eager to overcome the prior week’s offensive struggle session. The ‘Cats offense came to life as he connected with Derek Marino ‘22 for a thirty-five yard gain that put Bates in scoring position. The Bobcat offense capitalized on the momentum as Costa connected with Sean Bryant ’22 for the first score on the day. 

Quarterback Brendan Costa ‘22 took the year off last year so he could remain eligible to play this season. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Bryant’s touchdown was his first of the season and the fourth of his Bates career. As Bryant hauled in the pass, Garcelon erupted. After Simon Redfern ’22 made it 7-0 with the successful PAT, a glimmer of hope began to creep back into the hearts of the Bobcat faithful. 

The Wesleyan offense, captained by Ashton Scott ’22, took the field hoping to quell the raucous atmosphere that encapsulated Garcelon on Saturday. Coming off their resounding 30-14 victory against Hamilton last week, Wesleyan’s potent offense was going to be difficult to contain. 

However, the ‘Cats defense was more than up to the challenge, holding the Cardinals to a field goal in their first drive. The mantra for the Bobcat defense this year has seemingly been “bend, don’t break.” 

Giving up points is bound to happen with a defensive roster that has been 35% smaller on average than their opponents’. However, if the defense would be able to hold the Wesleyan offense to field goals, the Bobcats would have a fighting chance. 

After the field goal, the Bates offense retook the field, hoping to continue its offensive success. It would seem, however, that the team didn’t want to get the fans too excited. Costa promptly fumbled the ball on the first snap of the drive and handed possession right back to the Cardinals. 

Wesleyan seized on the opportunity as Ashton Scott found David Estevez ’22 in the endzone to put Wesleyan ahead 10-7. While many are dismayed by the number of turnovers the Bobcats have had this year, eight in three games, an alternative perspective may be required. 

After a Bates drive that ended in a booming 53-yard punt by Archie Green Jr. ’24, Wesleyan took over deep in their own territory hoping to add on to their intense first-quarter offensive performance. 

The Cardinals must have been inspired by the earlier Bobcat turnover as Ashton Scott fumbled and Spencer Adams ’22 recovered on the Wesleyan nine-yard line. It truly warms the heart to see the “sharing is caring” mentality still being adopted by both offenses as the turnover put Bates in prime scoring position. 

Costa and the offense took over deep into Cardinal territory, as a series of runs saw Costa pick up his second rushing touchdown of the year. The ‘Cats fourteen points in the first quarter was the most first-quarter points put up by the team since 2017. The only time the Bobcats have scored more than fourteen points in the first quarter was in a 38-21 victory over Hamilton in 2013. 

The second quarter began with David Estevez taking over at quarterback, who then proceeded to slash his way through the Bates defense. Estevez connected with three different receivers over the course of the fifty-five yard drive that culminated in a spectacular one-handed grab by Thomas Elkhoury ’24 for the touchdown. Estevez, a senior from New Jersey, was attempting to single-handedly ruin the Bates homecoming. 

Mohammed Diawara ‘23, a standout on the team this fall, could not help boost the Bobcats to victory. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

He threw, rushed, and caught three touchdowns for the Cardinals on Saturday. Many would argue that someone with this much footballing talent has no place in Division III and any play by him should be nullified. Someone should start that petition. 

A pair of field goals in the third quarter saw Wesleyan take a narrow 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Tensions were incredibly high—many Bates moms were on the verge of sweating through their Patagonia vests they purchased in Freeport the day before, while Bates students were on the verge of sweating out what little alcohol hadn’t already been perspired during Friday night dinner’s “What are you going to do with a rhetoric degree?” conversation.

Costa and the offense took over at the Wesleyan forty-eight yard line, ready to take the lead and hopefully secure the ‘Cats first win of the season. Costa drove the Bobcats right down the field before connecting with Caleb Bolden ’22 for the touchdown and the lead. Garcelon was in a frenzy. If the defense could hold, Bates would be in an excellent position to win the game. 

Unfortunately, there was no containing David Estevez. The man was simply unstoppable. For a moment, it looked as if Michael Vick, Jonny Manziel, and Vince Young had their DNA pooled and the mutant humanoid composite decided to make the Bates defense’s lives a living hell. 

On the 75-yard drive, Estevez rushed for 30 yards, and never threw a single incompletion. The drive culminated in a five-yard touchdown pass to Luis Sanchez ’24, putting the Cardinals ahead 27-24. 

However, there was still some time for some Maine magic. With 4:30 left on the clock, there was more than enough time for Costa to surmount one last offensive attack. Unfortunately, fans of Bates football are not allowed to have nice things like fourth-quarter comebacks. We, as fans, are condemned to eternal suffering in hopes of a Bobcat win. On second down, Costa fumbled the ball and gave possession right back to Wesleyan. 

Fortunately, the defense came up with a clutch stop that allowed the Bobcats to get one last crack at a comeback. For a brief moment, the comeback appeared to be not only in motion, but unstoppable. 

Simon Redfern ‘22 was recently named a NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Starting at the 31 yard line in their own half, the Bobcats got to work. Costa connected with Bolden, Bryant, and Marino ’22 on successive plays to put the Bobcats in field goal range. 

However, Bates was not going to settle for a field goal. They wanted to win this game in front of everyone who came out for the weekend festivities. Costa dropped back to pass and found an open receiver, only to watch the ball sail through his hands and into the waiting arms of Wesleyan defensive back Darreyl Williams ’23. One could almost hear the collective heart of the Bobcat fandom break as the Cardinals jubilantly celebrated on the sideline. 

The game ended shortly thereafter, as the Bobcats came up just short on home field. Dejected fans slowly walked out of the Garcelon bleachers, not quite sure if what they just witnessed had truly taken place. The Bobcat momentum was so strong, and then, like a fart in the wind, it was gone. 

The Bobcats had played brilliantly until Estevez decided to ruin the party. Estevez was literally a human cheat code for the Cardinals in the heartbreaking loss, going 12-for-12 in his pass attempts for 123 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. He also rushed 16 times for 40 yards and added to a stellar all-around day with two receptions for 61 yards and 1 TD.

As WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon, once said in a 2000 Smackdown! Promo: “Life sucks, and then you die!” Although he may not have known it, Vince was describing life as a Bates College football fan. 

While Mr. McMahon paints in broad brushstrokes, the mentality is not quite as one-dimensional as one may think. Life as a Bobcat football supporter sucks, but it sucks in a variety of ways. Some days, the pain is a slow burn, like when the Bobcats put up 119 yards of offense against Middlebury last week. Other times, the pain is humiliating, like when the ‘Cats were slaughtered 51-0 by Trinity in 2019. This time, however, it was nothing short of pure, unadulterated, gut-wrenching heartbreak. 

Bates travels to Tufts University next week, in hopes of securing their first win of the season. Bates fans may be wary to get their hopes up, but, as Andy Dufrense writes in The Shawshank Redemption, “Hope may be the best of things.” 

Who knows where hope will take the Bobcat faithful this season, but, unfortunately, it’s about all we have left.