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Colby slows down football, wins CBB series opener 21-3

Ryan Curit returned from a one-game absence and collected a game-high 120 all-purpose yards, but Bates fell 21-3 at Colby on Oct. 26, 2013. File photo by Mike Bradley/Bates College.

WATERVILLE, Maine -- A stingy Colby defense kept the Bates football team out of the end zone all day, leading the host Mules to a 21-3 win in the opening game of the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) series on Saturday.

The Bobcats (2-4) suffered their third straight loss, and will look to rebound on Homecoming Saturday, Nov. 2 at 12:30pm against Bowdoin. Colby improved to 3-3 overall and has won two straight games. The Mules visit Bowdoin in two weeks and will win their first outright CBB title since 2005 with a victory.

The NESCAC's leading rushing offense going into the game, Bates was held to a season-low 88 rushing yards on 46 attempts. Bates' offensive attack was the most balanced it has been all season, with first-year quarterback Nick LaSpada (Billerica, Mass.) and junior signal-caller Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) combining for 192 yards in the air out of 30 attempts. Colby picked off three Bates passes in the game, however.

There were only 27 first downs in the game, 15 for the Bobcats, which is a season-low. Colby won the turnover battle 4-1 and averaged 5.6 yards per play, the second-highest of the season for a Bates opponent. Bates' three points were the fewest the Bobcats have mustered in a game since the third week of the 2010 season.

After falling 31-6 in Lewiston last year and watching Bates go on to win the CBB title, Colby was in command from start to finish Saturday.

First-year running back Carl Lipani had two of Colby's three touchdowns and quarterback Justin Ciero ran for the other score.

After the Mules stopped Bates with a three-and-out on the opening drive of the game, Colby scored on its first possession. Ciero helped set up the touchdown with an 18-yard run when he escaped a near sack on the play. Lipani burst up the middle and ran 49 yards for the score, diving forward into the end zone after being slightly tripped by a Bates tackler around the 3-yard line.

The game slowed down and the punters took over for a good portion of the first quarter. Bates got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 31-yard field goal by senior Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.). The Bobcats, struggling to run the ball, used two big pass plays on the drive of 41 and 35 yards, both to senior running back Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine) from LaSpada.

But Colby drove right down the field for a second touchdown. Ciero found Ryder Arsenault down the right sideline for 51 yards past Colby's bench to the Bates' 6-yard line. On the next play, Lipani went up the middle for his second score.

The Mules took a 14-3 lead into intermission and then used a big special teams play to set up their final touchdown. Colby punter Louw Scheepers capped a solid day of kicking with a 45-yard boot that went out of bounds at Bates' 1-yard line. 

The Bobcats went three-and-out, forcing junior punter David Kurey (West Chester, Pa.) to kick from the back of the end zone. Zach Padula had a 5-yard return for Colby to the Bates' 25-yard line.

Colby wasted no time in going up 21-3, scoring on the first play of the drive. Ciero ran off the left side of the line and sped up the middle of the field for the score.

Ciero ran 21 times for 87 yards (4.1 per rush) and had 165 yards of passing. Lipani had a 6.8-yard per rush average on his 10 carries for 68 yards. Arsenault had 100 yards of receiving on four catches, while Luke Duncklee had five catches for 60 yards and ran three times for 14 yards. 

Curit had 82 yards receiving on three catches and led the ground game with 38 yards rushing. LaSpada threw for 176 yards.

Colby's Stephen O'Grady and Henry Nelson both had nine tackles. Daniel Maddox added seven tackles and one of Colby's three interceptions. 

Senior Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.) played inside linebacker, his second straight week out of his normal free safety position, and had a game-high 10 tackles, including two for loss, for the Bobcats. Junior safety Ryan Newson (Stanhope, N.J.) was credited with nine tackles, all solo stops. Junior Steven Hild (West Hartford, Conn.) had five stops, and junior Gilbert Brown (Gloucester, Mass.) had one interception and five tackles. Sophomore defensive end Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.) tallied four tackles, including a sack, to go with two pass break-ups and one quarterback hurry.