LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates College football team shocked Williams College Saturday with a 33-6 victory at Garcelon Field that was every bit as dominating as the score indicates.
From a defense that forced four turnovers and held star wide receiver Darren Hartwell to just one catch, to special teams play that featured two Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.) field goals, to an offense that didn't give the ball away and, above all, boasted a running attack that punished the opposition for a second straight week, everything went better than the Bobcats could possibly have hoped against the perennial NESCAC power Ephs.
It was a stunning and gratifying way to end an awful week for the team and the Bates community. The game began with a moment of silence in memory of Troy Pappas, a freshman wide receiver on the Bobcats from Eliot, Maine, who passed away on Friday afternoon after a tragic accident.
"I am so proud of the resiliency and toughness that the team showed in the face of a great deal of adversity," said Bates head coach Mark Harriman.
The first big play of the game occurred after Williams took over possession at its own 31-yard line, five minutes into the first quarter. Williams running back Marco Hernandez gained five yards before senior cornerback Kyle Starr (Concord, N.H.) popped the ball loose for senior Josh Chronopoulos (Tyngsboro, Mass.) to recover it at the Williams 36.
Bates' offense took the field, and on the first play from scrimmage, junior slotback Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine) tossed an option pass down the middle to junior receiver Kevin Davis (North Andover, Mass.) for a 36-yard touchdown, and a 7-0 Bates lead with Donahue's point-after.
Hartwell's kickoff return set Williams up at its own 34, and the Ephs advanced into Bates territory with a 25-yard connection from Adam Marske to Greg Payton. With a first down from the Bates 18, Bates first-year defensive back Michael Lee (Bealeton, Va.) picked off a Marske pass in the end zone, near the right pylon, for a touchback.
Already leading 7-0, Bates took over at its own 20 and marched 80 yards to another score on 14 plays, a mix of short passes and effective running from senior quarterback Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.), behind staunch play from Bates' offensive line: senior Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine), senior Mark Sylvester (Everett, Mass.), sophomore Larry Guinee (Peabody, Mass.) and juniors Michael Bernstein (New York, N.Y.) and Liam O'Neil (Hingham, Mass.). Senior running back Teddy Downs (South Boston, Mass.) finished off the drive with a 12-yard gallop up the middle and into the end zone for a 14-0 lead just before the end of the quarter.
Bates sophomore John Durkin (Rye Beach, N.H.) made back-to-back plays to thwart Williams' second drive of the second quarter, sticking out his arm to bat away a pass for Hartwell on second down and then sacking Marske for a 7-yard loss on third down. Joe Mallock's punt traveled 61 yards, however, to force the Bobcat offense to start from their own 14.
Bates responded with another long drive, going 74 yards in 11 plays to the Williams 12, where Donahue made a 29-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead. Williams got the ball once more before halftime, but Marske was picked off by Bates junior Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.) at the Bates 29 with 1:16 left in the half.
Any worries harbored by Bates' first home crowd of the season that the Ephs would jump right back into the game were quelled after Bates' first series of the third quarter. Curit ran for 12 yards and senior Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.) had a 13-yarder to begin another beautifully executed drive of 13 plays for 75 yards. Inside the Williams 5, George toted the ball three straight times, ultimately punching in from a yard out for a 24-0 lead.
Williams' sputtering offense went three-and-out, and Mallock was summoned to punt again, setting up Bates at its own 45. Smith found Davis for a 21-yard connection, and in one 8-play, 55-yard drive, four different ball-carriers helped bring the ball to the Williams 5. From there, Smith found Davis again: the wideout sealed off his defender and snagged Smith's low and perfectly placed throw to the outside for a 5-yard touchdown catch. Donahue's point-after attempt was blocked, however, keeping the score at an eye-blinking 30-0.
With Bates leading by 30 points and 20 minutes still left in the game, the outcome already seemed decided. The teams traded three-and-out possessions before Marske was picked off again, with a spectacular diving stab by sophomore Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.) before the end of the quarter.
Following a 28-yard field goal by Donahue, Williams finally scored on its only real possession of the fourth quarter. The Ephs took the ball over at their own 43 and leaned on Kristian Lapointe's running, along with a 20-yard pass interference call against Bates, to put together a 10-play, 57-yard drive, capped by Lapointe's 1-yard scoring plunge. Bates took over the ball with 7:50 left in the game and basically ran out the game clock, with sophomore backup QB Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) taking a knee at the Williams 5 to turn the ball over on downs with 38 seconds to go.
Bates (2-1) ran the ball 66 times for 305 yards and piled up 28 first downs to Williams' 12. George ran the ball 22 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, and Smith turned 19 keepers into 98 yards, career-high totals for both players. Downs ran 14 times for 68 yards and another score. Smith also completed 11 of 13 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. Davis caught three passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
Bates is off to a 2-1 start for the second straight year, again matching the team's best start after three games since 1982. The Bobcats forced four turnovers and committed none, improving upon their average of a plus-three difference in giveaways per game. Bates possessed the ball for 37:59 to Williams' 22:01.
Lapointe finished with 76 yards and the touchdown on 18 carries for Williams. Marske completed 9 of 24 passes for 86 yards and three interceptions. Chris Cameron had a game-high 11 tackles for the Ephs, including two for a loss.
Bates' starting secondary played a starring role in limiting Williams to 188 yards of offense and helping create four turnovers. Sophomore cornerback Mike Kelleher (Saugus, Mass.) had an outstanding game, leading the Bobcats with 8 tackles (6 solo). Starr was second on the team with six tackles, with the forced fumble and two bone-jarring pass breakups, and Kukesh was third on the team with five tackles, to go with his second pickoff of the season.
Bates remains at home next Saturday to take on Wesleyan (3-0).