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Football comes back to beat Bowdoin, 28-24

See a video of the Bobcats' postgame fight song posted on YouTube

LEWISTON, Maine -- Sophomore defensive end Tyler Kuehl's interception and 25-yard return for a touchdown gave Bates College its first lead of the game with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter, and the Bobcats went on to win 28-24 over Bowdoin, the Bobcats' first win over their in-state rivals since 2003. It was the 300th win in the history of Bates football.

Teammates pile on Tyler Kuehl after the defensive end's 25-yard interception return for a touchdown put Bates in the lead for good in the fourth quarter.

Bates' first win of the year puts the Bobcats at 1-6, while Bowdoin drops to 2-5. Both teams will need Bowdoin to defeat Colby next week in order to claim a share of the CBB title.

Under pressure from junior defensive tackle Devin Horvath (Parsippany, N.J.), backup quarterback R.J. Shea's pass on 3rd and 9 from the Bowdoin 31 was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Kuehl (Plymouth, N.H.), and the 6-3, 255-pound lineman gathered the ball and rumbled 25 yards across the field for the go-ahead score, only a minute after the Bobcats had closed the gap to 24-21 on senior Matt Gregg's (Milton, Mass.) 23-yard touchdown reception.

Bowdoin got the ball back twice before the game was through. First the Polar Bears marched from their own 38 all the way to the Bates 1-yard line but were stuffed in a goal-line stand by the Bobcats, ending a 13-play, 59-yard drive with 4:08 left in the game.

Evan Tierney and Trevor Smith (11) lead the celebration as the final seconds tick off on Bates' 28-24 win over Bowdoin.

With Bates taking over at its own 3, Bowdoin forced a three-and-out, and the Polar Bears took the ball over at the Bates 26 when Pat Noone returned a 33-yard Gavin Segall-Abrams (Greensboro, N.C.) punt 12 yards. An 11-yard strike from Shea to Justin Starr helped Bowdoin get as far as the Bates 11, but on 3rd and 6, with 73 seconds left in the game, sophomore linebacker Brett McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) picked off Shea's pass in the back of the end zone to preserve the win.

Shea took over for Bowdoin's star senior quarterback, Oliver Kell, after Kell separated his shoulder on a quarterback keeper at the start of the third quarter. The 6-5 sophomore Shea, who entered the game with zero pass attempts in his career, completed 10 of 23 passes for 97 yards in the second half. Kell was 10 of 15 for 75 yards and one interception. Both quarterbacks rushed for touchdowns, with Shea netting 23 rushing yards and Kell netting 17. Nick Tom rushed for a game-high 73 yards as Bowdoin was limited to 293 yards of offense to 330 for Bates.

For Bates, rookie quarterback Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.) was outstanding again in his second career start, completing 21 of 31 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns and also rushing for a team-high 29 yards, leading Bates to victory despite throwing three interceptions. The Bobcats overcame four turnovers, including one on each of their first three possessions of the game. Last week at Colby, Smith set two Bates single-game passing records in his first career start, with 31 completions and 361 passing yards.

Head coach Mark Harriman (in gray on left) and defensive line coach Skip Capone (in gray on right) are in the center of the sideline celebration in the waning seconds.

Senior Tom Beaton (West Newbury, Mass.) led Bates receivers with his second straight monster game, catching nine passes for a career-high 152 yards and a score, a week after posting career receiving highs with 10 catches and 121 yards. Beaton's 152 yards were not only a new career high, but they were the highest total by a Bates receiver since Owen Miehe '04 had 164 against Middlebury in 2001.

Beaton caught a 58-yard touchdown with 7:37 left in the third quarter on a flea-flicker to begin to turn the game's momentum toward Bates. Smith handed off to sophomore running back Dylan Taylor (Madison, Conn.) on the play, but Taylor pitched back to Smith, who launched the ball over 40 yards in the air to a wide-open Beaton downfield, and Beaton ran the final 25 yards for the score that closed the gap to 17-14.The flea-flicker was the first play from the line of scrimmage for Bates after Shea's 1-yard touchdown plunge capped a 15-play, 76-yard scoring drive.

But Bowdoin rebuilt a cushion early in the fourth quarter when Matt Leotti stepped in front of a Smith pass and sprinted 58 yards down the sideline for a touchdown with 12:36 left in the game, giving Bowdoin a 24-14 lead. But Bates responded quickly, starting out its next drive at its own 48, advancing 15 yards on a Bowdoin face mask penalty, 11 more on a sideline catch by junior Evan Tierney (Carlisle, Mass.), and closing the gap to 24-21 with 10:44 left in the game when Smith hit Gregg in stride near the left pylon for a 23-yard touchdown.

Rich McNeil (49) and Brett McAllister wrap up Bowdoin receiver Jon Gren.

As Bates opened the game with three turnovers on its first three possessions, the Polar Bears converted them into 10 points. Smith was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage of the game, when his pass to Gregg was bobbled and snatched out of the air by Bobby Welch, who returned the ball back 39 yards to the Bates 32. Kell immediately hit Tom for 21 yards, and then a 9-yard jaunt by Tom quickly had the Polar Bears at the Bates 2. Kell scored on a 1-yard keeper two plays later.

Welch caused a second turnover on Bates' second possession, forcing and recovering a fumble. After a three-and-out by Bowdoin, Bates drove from its own 27 to the Bowdoin 13, thanks in great part to 11- and 20-yard catches by Beaton. But on 2nd and 7 at the 13, Smith was picked off in the end zone by a diving Will McIver. Bowdoin drove 71 yards inside the Bates 10 before settling for a 26-yard field goal by Bill Donahue, and the Polar Bears had a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Bates responded in swift measure, however, as sophomore Cam Evans (Norwell, Mass.) leaped high for an interception to give the Bobcats the ball at their own 43. Smith hit receiver John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) with a laser over the middle that went for 29 yards, and later an 11-yard connection with Beaton gave Bates a first down at the Bowdoin 15. Three plays later, on third down and 4, Smith hit H-back Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine), and the 6-5, 260-pound sophomore plowed into the end zone for a 9-yard score, closing the gap to 10-7 before halftime.

Rookie quarterback Trevor Smith rears back for his 58-yard touchdown pass to Tom Beaton, after receiving a pitch back from Dylan Taylor.

Laurence Duggan made a team-high 10 tackles, including two quarterback sacks and two quarterback hurries, to lead the Bowdoin defense.

For Bates, junior Ted Durkin (Rye Beach, N.H.) and sophomore Kevin Helm (Norwell, Mass.) had 12 tackles apiece, while Brett McAllister added 11 to go with the key interception. Linemen Rich McNeil (Lawrence, Mass.) and Horvath totaled nine and eight tackles, respectively.

It was the final home game for 15 Bates seniors: Beaton, Tom Berry (Evanston, Ill.), Alex Gentilli (Westwood, Mass.), Gregg, Bill Jennings (Marshfield, Mass.), Mark Liu (Lexington, Mass.), Roy Lockhart (Needham, Mass.), Kyle McAllister (Exeter, N.H.), McNeil, Justin Medeiros (South Yarmouth, Mass.), David Myerson (Dover, Mass.), Matt Sherburne (Windham, Maine), Judd Smith (Milton, Mass.), MacEgan Starrett (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) and Sean Wirth (Barrington, R.I.).

Bates plays at Hamilton (1-6) next week at noon in the season finale, looking for its sixth straight win against the Continentals. Bowdoin hosts Colby (4-3) at 12:30 p.m.

STATS AND PLAY-BY-PLAY: Bates 28, Bowdoin 24