LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates College football team completed its third straight season at .500 or better for the first time since 1979 on Saturday, rolling past Hamilton College 31-10 at chilly Garcelon Field.
The Bobcats (4-4) totaled 281 rushing yards, including 197 in the second half, while holding the Continentals (0-8) to 26 rushing yards on 31 attempts. Bates outgained Hamilton 357-192 overall. Both teams struggled with turnovers, with Hamilton giving the ball away five times, including four interceptions, and Bates turning the ball over four times, including three fumbles lost.
"This was a great way to end the season -- I don't want to leave this field right now," said senior offensive tackle Owen Mahan (Camden, Maine). "We felt confident. It was the last game for these 18 seniors. I don't think we were going to let ourselves go out with a loss."
Hamilton (0-8) finished winless for the second year in a row, with its 20th straight setback overall.
The 18 members of Bates' Class of 2015 finish their four years in garnet with a 16-16 record, making them the winningest Bates group since the 18-14 Class of 1983. This was accomplished over a three-year period that saw the death of classmate John Durkin '15 last February and the death of another teammate, Troy Pappas '16, in 2012.
"They've been a phenomenal class, the way they've fought adversity along the way, and to be able to come out today and put it all together was just a real special feeling for us," said head coach Mark Harriman.
Bates' win also returns the rivals' all-time series lead back to the Bobcats for the first time since 1992, at 19-18. The Bobcats have defeated the Continentals three straight times and in 10 of their last 12 meetings. It is the second time in three years that Bates has finished on a three-game winning streak.
Hamilton quarterback Colin Pastorella was harassed throughout the game, sacked four times, hurried nine times (six times by Bates sophomore Ben Coulibaly (Philadelphia, Pa.)), and picked off four times. Pastorella finished the day with 12 completions on 34 attempts for 166 yards and a touchdown, including a handful of big gains which kept the Continentals within shouting distance of the lead until well into the second half.
Four Bates backs rushed for 55 yards or more on the day, led by first-year Frank Williams' (Brookline, Mass.) 70 yards on 10 carries. Williams also had a 35-yard reception for a season-high 105 yards total from scrimmage. Junior Shaun Carroll (Clinton, Maine) ran 14 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.) picked up 57 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and sophomore Tyler Janssen (Glastonbury, Conn.) toted the ball 15 times for 55 yards.
Senior quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.), who battled injuries to lead Bates to all four of its wins this season, completed 7 of 15 passes for 76 yards, hitting junior wide receiver Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) five times for 45 yards.
Bates sophomore linebacker Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) completed his blockbuster sophomore season with 11 tackles, a sack, two pass breakups and his first career touchdown, a 34-yard fumble recovery return in the first quarter that opened up a 14-0 Bates lead. Senior safety Ryan Newson (Stanhope, N.J.) forced that fumble and was second on the team with eight tackles, and cornerback Trevor Lyons (Hamilton, Mass.) had two interceptions.
Three Continentals reached double-digits in tackles, in Cade Larabee (11), John Phelan (11) and Matt Glebus (10). Larrabee also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Alex Mitko made eight tackles, including five for lost yardage, to go with a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Bates was unsuccessful on its first two series, but Lyons' interception near midfield set up the Bobcats at their own 47, launching a 6-play, 53-yard touchdown drive. Janssen had a 16-yard rush and Cannone hit Riley for 16 on 3rd and 10 to keep the drive alive. On 1st and 10 from the Hamilton 21, Carroll found space up the left sideline and dived over the goal line for a 21-yard touchdown. First-year kicker Grant DeWald's (Duxbury, Mass.) point-after made it 7-0.
Hamilton got the ball back at its 35 after Bates' kickoff went out of bounds, but the Continentals' second play from scrimmage on the drive proved to be their biggest setback. Rico Gonzalez was wrapped up in the backfield long enough for Newson to poke the ball loose from his grasp. Upton picked up a fortunate bounce while still on his feet, and he was able to sprint the other way for a 34-yard touchdown return and a sudden 14-0 lead.
Hamilton was held to seven total yards and without a first down on its first five possessions, finally getting its first down on the final play of the first quarter, a 35-yard connection from Pastorella to Nick Caso that took the Continentals from their own 5 to their 40. Amman Weaver rushed for 15 yards on the first play of the second quarter, and despite two penalties of over 10 yards committed by the Continentals, offset by a 15-yard penalty assessed to Bates, Pastorella continued to march Hamilton down the field. Pastorella connected with Charles Ensley for a 12-yard gain, connected with Patrick Donahoe for 22 yards to the Bates 13 to convert a 3rd and 14 situation, and finally hitting a wide-open Jordan Jenkins for an easy 13-yard touchdown pass thanks to a missed defensive assignment by the Bobcats. The touchdown completed an 8-play, 99-yard drive for Hamilton and closed the gap to 14-7.
Hamilton was on the move again halfway through the second quarter thanks to a 54-yard connection from Pastorella to Donahoe that took Hamilton to Bates' 21. Bates junior Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.) and senior Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.) combined to throw LaShawn Ware for a 7-yard loss, and on 4th and 17 from the Bates 28, Pastorella threw into the end zone where Freedland made an uncontested catch for the interception and touchback. Two plays later, however, Janssen was stripped of the ball by Mitko and the ball was recovered by Larabee and returned four yards to the Bates 10. Hamilton failed to get any closer to the end zone, but was able to settle for a successful 27-yard field goal attempt by Zach Altneu, closing the gap to 14-10 with 5:55 left in the half.
The teams traded punts, and Bates took over at the 50-yard line with 3:22 to go in the half. Bates quickly picked up a first down on runs by Carroll and Reese, before Cannone hit Williams with a short pass that turned into a 35-yard gain to the Hamilton 3. Reese barrelled into the end zone from the 4 shortly thereafter for a 21-10 Bates lead going into intermission.
Bates dominated the second half with its running game, possessing the ball for over 19 minutes and picking up 11 of its 18 first downs in the game.
Bates' second possession of the third quarter started at the Bobcat 38, and proceeded with eight consecutive rushes to the Hamilton 7. From there Bates settled for a 24-yard field goal by DeWald to open up a 24-10 lead.
The teams traded punts as the third quarter wound down, and Bates took the ball at its own 22 with 48 seconds left in the period. From there the Bobcats continued to keep the ball on the ground, rushing on 11 of their next 12 snaps and reaching the Hamilton 31. Senior David Kurey's (West Chester, Pa.) punt from the 35 was downed at the Hamilton 2. Pastorella hit Ensley for seven yards and some breathing room, but the Continentals had to punt from there, setting Bates up inside Hamilton territory at the 47. A 25-yard scamper by Williams took Bates inside the Hamilton 10, but a botched pitch between Cannone and Carroll put the ball on the ground, and Hamilton's James Taylor recovered at the Hamilton 11.
The Continentals gave the ball right back, however, as Pastorella's errant pass was picked off by senior Gilbert Brown (Gloucester, Mass.) at the Hamilton 17, and the senior captain rumbled all the way to the 1 before he was stopped by Pastorella. Carroll danced into the end zone untouched on the next play, making it 31-10 in Bates' favor with 6:15 left in the game.
The Bobcats finish the season in a tie for fifth place with Tufts, two games ahead of the three teams tied for seventh place (Bowdoin, Colby and Williams), in addition to their third consecutive CBB title and second outright CBB title in three years.
"Offensively, some of the young guys on offense have grown up a little bit," said Harriman. "Defensively, again another phenomenal effort. Our special teams really started to jell. Unfortunately, this is the eighth game of the year. We'd like to have a couple more."