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Football strikes early but Trinity runs away late to take season-opener, 38-7

Mark Upton had 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in Bates' season opener at Trinity College on September 24, 2016. (Brian Foley for Bates College)  

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Bates College football team started strong, scoring on their opening drive, but could not get much going on offense after that in a 38-7 loss to the Trinity College Bantams in both teams' season-opener Saturday at Jessee/Miller Field.

The Bobcats (0-1) hit the Bantams (1-0) in the mouth on their opening drive of the game. After junior Mickoy Nichol (Dennis Port, Mass.) returned the opening kickoff 15 yards to the Bates 25-yard line, junior Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) ran for three yards on the first play from scrimmage.

But the Bobcats committed a personal foul on the play, moving them back to their own 14-yard line. On 2nd and 21, sophomore quarterback Sandy Plashkes (Del Mar, Calif.) completed the first pass of his career, a six-yarder to Williams, setting up 3rd and 15 from their own 20.

Sophomore dive back Peter Boyer (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) ran for two yards on third down, but a Trinity unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave Bates an automatic first down at the Bobcat 38-yard line.

That's when Plashkes pulled off the biggest play of the afternoon for the Bobcats, running the ball 57 yards, all the way down to the Trinity five-yard line. After Williams rushed for two yards to get the ball to the Trinity three, Plashkes finished the drive by taking it himself for the rushing touchdown, putting the Bobcats up 7-0 after junior Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) made the extra point. 

It was a six-play, 75-yard drive that took up two minutes and 10 seconds to begin the game.

The Bantams picked up one first down on the ensuing drive. But Bates forced a punt after senior Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) sacked Trinity quarterback Sonny Puzzo on 3rd and 5 from the Trinity 42-yard line.

But the Bobcats went three-and-out on their next drive when Plashkes got sacked on 3rd and 9 by Liam Kenneally. A 39-yard Justin Foley '19 (Lynnfield, Mass.) punt got returned 11 yards by Darrien Myers to the Bates 47. 

Sophomore outside linebacker Joe Frake (Windham, N.H.) made four tackles on the Trinity drive, keeping them in check and forcing a 41-yard field goal attempt that was off the mark.

But an offsides penalty called against the Bobcats gave Trinity another attempt. This time, the 36-yarder was good, cutting the Bates lead to 7-3 with 6:32 to go in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts for the remainder of the first quarter of action. 

At the start of the second quarter, the Bantams had the Bobcats on the ropes, possessing the ball at the Bobcat 28-yard line and facing a 1st and 10.

But on the first play of the quarter, Puzzo fumbled the ball away and junior Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.) pounced on it for the Bobcats.

Bates did not take advantage of the turnover, going three-and-out with Williams running for three yards, Plashkes tossing an incomplete pass and Boyer running for three yards to set up another Foley punt.

The Bates defense continued their strong start to the game by forcing Trinity to punt after a three-and-out of their own. 

The Bobcats took over at their own 35-yard line with 12:26 remaining in the second quarter of action. 

A five-yard run and a seven-yard run by Williams moved the chains for Bates. Then on 1st and 10 from their own 48, Nichol ran the ball for four yards to get into Trinity territory. But back-to-back incomplete passes forced the Bobcats to punt yet again.

Foley pinned the Bantams at their own 3-yard line with a brilliant punt that went out of bounds with 10:38 remaining in the first half.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, on the first play from scrimmage Max Chipouras rushed for 41 yards, getting the Bantams out of trouble in a big way.

Lucas Golon followed with an 11-yard rush to get the Bantams to the Bates 45-yard line. One play later, Puzzo completed a pass to Nick Gaynor for 23 yards to the Bates 22. 

On 3rd and 8 from the Bates 20, Puzzo gave Trinity the lead for good with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Darrien Myers. The extra point gave Trinity a 10-7 lead over Bates with 8:41 remaining in the first half.

For the remainder of the first half the teams traded punts, with Foley punting three more times for the Bobcats. Late in the half, Bates could not take advantage of an Ian McDonald punt that traveled negative three yards, setting the Bobcats up with 1st and 10 at midfield with 1:29 to go.

A personal foul forced Bates behind the sticks and that's where they stayed for the drive, punting it away with less than 20 seconds to go in the half.

Trinity got the ball to start the second half, only leading the Bobcats by three points.

Their opening drive only went five plays for 15 yards before the Bantams had to punt after Frake stopped Puzzo short of the sticks on 3rd and 10.

But the Bobcats could only gain one yard on three plays before Foley came on to punt. His punt traveled 41 yards and Myers returned it 34 yards to the Bates 37-yard line.

Puzzo took advantage by completing a pass to Bryan Vieira for 14 yards to the Bates 23. Chipouras ran the ball 10 more yards down to the Bates 13 and on 1st and 10 ran the ball three more yards down to the Bates 10-yard line.

Myers finished off the drive he started with his excellent return with two catches of five yards each, the latter catch resulting in a touchdown for the Bantams, putting them up 17-7 after the extra point with 11:15 remaining in the third quarter.

After another Bates three-and-out, the Bantams started with the ball in Bates territory again, this time at the Bobcat 45-yard line thanks to a 16-yard Myers punt return.

Three Chipouras rushes moved the ball to the Bates 30-yard line and Puzzo connected with Myers for a 30-yard touchdown reception, extending the Trinity lead after the extra point to 24-7 with 7:49 left in the third quarter.

The drive that killed any hopes of a Bates comeback began with 3:57 left in the third quarter. Bates got the ball back at their own 30-yard line after a failed fourth down conversion attempt by Trinity.

Senior Ryan Spillane (Medfield, Mass.) ran the ball up the gut for seven yards to their own 37. Then he picked up the first down with a four-yard rush. Then he grinded out another first down with rushes of four, three and four yards respectively. 

Facing 1st and 10 at the Trinity 48, Boyer rushed for three yards and Plashkes completed a pass to Williams for seven yards for another first down. 

On 3rd and 7 from the Trinity 35, the Bantams committed pass interference, giving the Bobcats an automatic first down at the Trinity 20.

A nine-yard rush by Williams set up 2nd and 1 from the Trinity 11. But one play later, Spencer Donahue picked off Plashkes and returned the ball all the way down to the Bates two-yard line, spoiling the scoring opportunity.

Upton prevented the turnover from turning into points for Trinity by forcing Chipouras to fumble the ensuing handoff out of the endzone for a touchback.

But Bates found themselves down 24-7 nonetheless through three quarters of action.

The Bobcats could not get a first down on their opening drive of the fourth quarter and Trinity took over after a punt at their own 30-yard line with 13:47 left in the game.

Their ensuing scoring drive went 70 yards on nine plays, eating up four minutes and 32 seconds in the process. Six of those nine plays involved handing the ball off to Lucas Golon, who gashed the Bates defense for gains of 17, 9, 17 and 11 yards before he finally punched it in from one yard out to extend the Trinity lead to 31-7 after the extra point.

A Boyer fumble gave Trinity the ball back on the next drive and Golon immediately took the handoff and sprinted 39 yards for the touchdown to cap off the scoring.

Puzzo completed 17-26 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns while Plashkes completed 4-9 passes for 36 yards. Boyer led the Bobcats in rushing with 62 yards on the ground on 20 carries. Plashkes finished with a rushing touchdown and 54 yards on the ground. Williams chipped in 40 yards on 10 carries.

Chipouras toted the rock 18 times for a game-high 144 rushing yards and Golon finished with 15 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns. 

Myers caught seven passes for 87 yards and three scores for Trinity. Meanwhile junior Brian Daly (Marblehead, Mass.) caught one pass for 16 yards for Bates.

Foley punted 14 times on the afternoon, averaging 38.6 yards per punt. Myers returned six of those punts for an average of 20.8 yards.

Upton tallied 12 tackles (10 solo) and Frake totaled 11 tackles to lead the Bobcats on defense. Kenneally led the Bantams with 11 tackles of his own.

The Bobcats look to bounce back next Saturday when they visit Tufts for a 1:00 p.m. kick.