BRUNSWICK, Maine -- Bates football claimed its first outright Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) championship since 2002, and rose to 4-3 for the first time since 1982, with a 14-6 victory over Bowdoin on Saturday at Whittier Field.
The win guarantees the Bobcats (4-3) their first season with a record of .500 or better since they were 4-4 in 1999. Bates finishes the season at home next Saturday against Hamilton (1-6), with a chance to finish 5-3, which would be its best mark since going 6-2 in 1981.
The win is the third in the past four years against the rival Polar Bears, and it's the first time the Bobcats have won in Brunswick since 2002.
Bates gained 160 yards on the ground, led by sophomore slotback Mac Jackson (Hood River, Ore.), whose 22-yard pickup highlighted a 6-carry, 61-yard day. Senior Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.) ran for 40 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Senior quarterback Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.) completed 11 of 18 passes for 100 yards -- nine of his completions went to junior wide receiver Kevin Davis (North Andover, Mass.) whose career-high catch total resulted in 87 yards and a touchdown.
Senior defensive end Matt Gaither (Winchester, Mass.) racked up a career-high nine tackles (8 solo), including Bates' lone quarterback sack and three tackles for a loss, as Bates held its opponent to six points for the second straight week (following last Saturday's 31-6 win over Colby). Senior linebacker Josh Chronopoulos (Tyngsboro, Mass.) and sophomore linebacker John Durkin (Rye Beach, N.H.) tied for the team lead with 11 tackles apiece, and junior safety Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.) picked off his fifth interception of the season.
Bates' 14 points were a season low in either wins or losses. The Bobcats earned a key 21-15 edge in first downs in the game, including a 12-5 advantage in rushing first downs.
Bowdoin gave the ball away four times, compared to three for Bates, making it the sixth time in seven games this season that Bates has won the turnover battle. The one time the Bobcats didn't win that category was against Wesleyan, which was a 2-2 draw between the teams.
After Bates punted the ball away from midfield on the first series of the game, Bowdoin put together what would be its most extensive drive of the game, moving 76 yards on 14 plays from its own 19-yard line to set up a 22-yard field goal by Jimmy Garvey for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Bates fumbled the ball away on the next play from scrimmage, then had to punt again from midfield before the first quarter came to a close.
The Bobcats started their next drive from their best field position to that point, at the Bates 48, and moved the ball to the Bowdoin 17 before the drive stalled out, thanks to a fumble and a sack. From the Bowdoin 28, sophomore punter David Kurey (West Chester, Pa.) landed the ball at the Bowdoin 5. The Polar Bears immediately gained 10 yards on a completion from Mac Caputi to Nick Goldin, but Goldin fumbled the ball away to junior Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.), who recovered at the Bowdoin 15. This field position was too good for Bates not to take advantage, and the Bobcats complied, using a five-yard Bowdoin penalty and a two-yard gain by George to move to the 8-yard line, where Smith connected with Davis for an 8-yard touchdown -- Davis's third this season and Smith's fifth toss for a TD. Junior kicker Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.) added the extra point for a 7-3 Bates lead with 9:47 left in the half.
Kukesh's interception at the Bates 16 truncated Bowdoin's third-quarter-opening drive, but Bates gave the ball right back when Bowdoin's Joey Cleary picked off Smith, returning the ball to the Polar Bears at the Bates 31. A 14-yard completion from Caputi to Zach Donnarumma helped the Polar Bears reach the Bates 7, from where they settled for a 24-yard field goal by Garvey to cut the gap to 7-6.
Bates responded with its best offensive drive of the day, quickly moving from its own 35 deep into Bowdoin territory on an unpredictable mix of plays: a 10-yard pass to Davis, followed by runs of six and nine yards by senior Teddy Downs (South Boston, Mass.) and junior Shawn Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.), then a 13-yard pass to Davis and a 6-yard jaunt by George. Smith found first-year wideout Harrison Murphy (Whitinsville, Mass.) for 11 yards, taking Bates down to the 5, and two plays later George punched the ball in from two yards out for a 14-6 lead with 3:01 left in the third quarter, capping a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive.
Bowdoin would enter Bates territory twice more in the game, but came away with no points to show for it. Early in the fourth quarter, Gaither stopped Donnarumma for a 1-yard loss on 4th and 1 from the Bates 34, turning the ball over on downs on one of the biggest plays of the day.
Bowdoin's defense held Bates to a three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Polar Bear offense at their own 28 with 11:41 left in the game. A mix of passes and runs allowed the Polar Bears to move methodically to a 1st and 10 at Bates' 23. On 3rd and 6, Durkin wrapped up Daniel Barone at the 14, a yard short of the first down conversion, leading to another attempt at a fourth-down conversion for Bowdoin. Durkin and Chronopoulos were both in on the tackle as Wilifred Ahoua was stuffed for a 1-yard loss, bringing Bates to the doorstep of victory.
Jackson rushed for 14 yards for an all-important first down, starting Bates on a 13-play, 55-yard drive that ate up 5:10 of the game clock. Doherty was thrown for a 6-yard loss on 4th and 2 from the Bowdoin 24, returning the ball to Bowdoin on downs with 52 seconds left in the game, but Caputi fumbled the ball away on the first play of Bowdoin's final possession, and Bates junior defensive tackle Matt Comstock (Amherst, N.H.) recovered the ball to clinch the historic win.
Bowdoin's Donnarumma netted 70 yards on 25 carries, in addition to two catches for 25 yards. Caputi completed 19 of 30 passes for 198 yards and one interception. Griffin Cardew had a game-high 17 tackles (9 solo), followed closely by David Nurse's 16 tackles, including 1.5 sacks.