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Shorthanded football plays admirably in 28-17 loss to Middlebury

Ivan Reese ran for 101 yards and caught a 10-yard shovel pass in Bates' 28-17 loss to Middlebury on Oct. 19, 2013. Photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College.

LEWISTON, Maine -- Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, and scrambled for a key third-down conversion to keep the Panthers' final scoring drive alive in the fourth quarter, in a 28-17 victory at injury-plagued Bates on Saturday at Garcelon Field.

Bates (2-3) took the lead three times in the first half, but Middlebury (4-1) shut out the Bobcats in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points for the win. 

Eight of Bates' starters from Weeks 1 and 2 were inactive for the game, but the Bobcats performed admirably, totaling 21 first downs to Middlebury's 25, gaining 388 yards to Middlebury's 417 and keeping the ball for 31:10 of the game clock. 

Foote, Middlebury's senior preseason All-America QB, completed 35 of 56 passes and was picked off once, by junior Ryan Newson (Stanhope, N.J.) in the first quarter. Five Middlebury receivers had five or more catches, led by Brendan Rankowitz (8-96) and William Sadik-Khan (8-56, 1 TD). Matt Rea rushed 11 times for 50 yards and a touchdown.

First-year running back Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.) received his first collegiate start and rushed for 101 yards on 21 attempts. Fellow rookie James Semmonella (Orange, Conn.), playing in his first collegiate game, gained 60 yards on six carries. The Bobcats' lone turnover in the game was an interception thrown on fourth down by junior Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) late in the fourth quarter.

Cannone completed 8 of 18 passes for 103 yards and rushed 19 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. First-year Nick LaSpada (Billerica, Mass.) completed 2 of 4 passes, including a 6-yard touchdown to junior Mike Tomaino (Gloucester, Mass.) in the second quarter.

Tim Patricia had a game-high 17 tackles (12 solo) for Middlebury, while Jake Clapp added 10 tackles (6 solo), including half a sack.

Junior cornerback Mike Kelleher (Saugus, Mass.) led Bates in tackles with 12 (8 solo), to go with three pass breakups. Preseason All-American Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.), Bates' starting safety in every game of his career until today, played outside linebacker and made nine solo tackles, including three for a loss. First-year Ben Coulibaly (Philadelphia, Pa.), nominally a defensive back, also started at outside linebacker and came up with nine tackles (5 solo). Rookie Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) also made his first start at linebacker and totaled seven solo tackles.

Bates scored the game's first points on its second drive, moving 63 yards on eight plays, including a 34-yard gain by Reese and a seven-yard run by Reese to convert a 3rd and 5. Bates missed many players, but its offensive line was intact and dominating the line of scrimmage. Cannone finished off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run on a misdirection play, and senior Charlie Donahue's (Plymouth, N.H.) extra point was good for a 7-0 lead.

Foote was intercepted by Newson on Middlebury's next possession, but Middlebury held Bates to a three-and-out and got the ball back at its 28. The Panthers then drove 72 yards on 11 plays, with Foote completing seven passes, including a 5-yard strike to Sadik-Khan for the game-tying touchdown with 32 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Bates regained the lead on the next series, driving 59 yards as far as the Middlebury 11, including a 22-yard run by Semmonella on his first career carry that took the Bobcats to the 16. Donahue's 28-yard field goal sailed through the uprights for a 10-7 lead.

On Middlebury's next possession, Rea scampered for 32 yards to convert a 4th and 2 from the Panther 40-yard line. Middlebury extended the drive with another fourth-down conversion, with Zelkowitz picking up six yards on 4th and 1 to take the Panthers to the Bates 13. three plays later, Rea punched it in on a second effort, and Michael Dola's PAT gave Middlebury a 14-10 lead.

LaSpada then played his first series at quarterback for the Bobcats and led the team on a 9-play, 62-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 20-yard completion to senior Kevin Davis (North Andover, Mass.) and capped by LaSpada's 6-yard strike to Tomaino, on which he displayed impressive patience in waiting for the wideout to break free in the back of the end zone. At intermission, Bates led 17-14.

Middlebury clamped down defensively in the second half, forcing Bates to punt the ball away on its first three possessions, neither of which got past Bates' 36-yard line. The Panthers also punted on their first three series of the half, but went ahead for good on the fourth try, with an 11-play, 72-yard drive. From the Bates 9, Foote fired to rookie receiver Grant Luna near the right pylon, and Luna stuck the ball over the goal-line plane before being pushed out for the go-ahead touchdown.

Bates responded with its only extended drive of the second half. The Bobcats moved from their own 14 up into Middlebury territory on three straight plays: a 15-yard Semmonella gain, a 15-yard keeper by Cannone through a gaping hole in the line, and a 19-yard carry by Semmonella. On 3rd and 8 at the Middlebury 35, sophomore receiver Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) made his second career catch on perhaps Bates' best play of the day, leaping high for a grab over the middle that was good for 23 yards to the Middlebury 12. Middlebury stuffed the drive at the 6-yard line, and Donahue's 23-yard field goal attempt traveled wide right to keep the score at 21-17.

Middlebury forced a three-and-out on Bates' ensuing possession, then added a back-breaking touchdown for a 28-17 lead. The Panthers faced 3rd and 4 at the Bates 25, and Foote was flushed out of the pocket, but he was able to weave through a broken field for 22 yards before he was dragged down by Kukesh at the 3. Zelkowitz punched it in from there for the 11-point advantage.

Senior Shawn Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.) returned the ensuing kickoff from the end zone up to the Bates 47 to keep the Bobcats' hopes alive. Reese pounded for a 2-yard gain on 4th and 1 to keep the drive alive at Middlebury's 42. Cannone hit Tomaino on the sideline for eight more yards, but then was sacked by Clapp and Bryant Adams. After an incompletion to Davis, Cannone's pass on 4th and 4 was intercepted by Jared Onouye, efffectively ending Bates' hopes with 3:22 left in the game.

Eight players who started in both of Bates' first two games this season were inactive against Middlebury, including six on defense. The defense missed the services of senior tackle Matt Comstock (Amherst, N.H.), sophomore end Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.) and four linebackers, all juniors: Adam Cuomo (Plymouth, N.H.), John Durkin (Rye Beach, N.H.), Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.) and Pat Gilligan (Acton, Mass.). On offense, inactives included sophomore quarterback Patrick Dugan (Westford, Mass.) and senior running back Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine).

With so many veterans relegated to the sidelines, the game revealed a promising rookie class of Bobcats. Reese, Coulibaly, Upton, Semmonella, Brandon Williams (Gardner, Mass.), who had three special teams tackles, defensive linemen Sean Antonuccio (Boxford, Mass.) and Nate Friesth (Munford, Tenn.), and left offensive tackle Mitch Hildreth (Needham, Mass.) all played important roles in the game.

Bates travels to Colby next Saturday to open CBB play at 1pm.