LEWISTON, Maine -- The CBB series got started on the right foot Saturday afternoon for the Bates College football team in a 21-19 victory over the Colby College Mules at Garcelon Field.
Sophomore Peter Boyer (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) rushed for a career-high 73 yards and tallied a touchdown to lead the Bobcat offense. Meanwhile junior Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) scored a pair of touchdowns of his own.
In rainy conditions, the Bobcats (2-4) jumped out to an early 21-3 lead and held on for dear life in the second half when the Mules (2-4) refused to go away.
The teams traded punts for the first three possessions of the game but the Mules took advantage of a turnover to get on the board first. Ian Dickey picked off sophomore quarterback Sandy Plashkes (Del Mar, Calif.) to give the Mules great field position at the Bobcat 30 yard line.
The Bates defense, which played another solid game on Saturday, forced a key three-and-out, leaving Colby with a 43-yard field goal attempt.
But the Mules' John Baron nailed the 43-yarder to put Colby up 3-0 with 8:21 left in the first quarter.
Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 27 yards to the Bobcat 32. Boyer churned out runs of six and eight yards to get the ball to 46-yard line. Then Plashkes connected with junior Mickoy Nichol (Dennis Port, Mass.) for a seven-yard reception. Facing 3rd and 2 at the Colby 46, a hard count from Plashkes got the Mules to jump offside, giving the Bobcats a first down at the Colby 41.
Then the sophomore quarterback put it in his own hands, running for gains of three and 11 yards respectively.
After Boyer ran for three yards to get the ball to the Colby 24, Williams caught a pass by his shoelaces and scampered to pay dirt, giving the Bobcats a 7-3 lead with 4:00 left in the first quarter. They never trailed after that and even added to their advantage before halftime.
After Bates punted back to Colby, Francis did it again. On the final play of the quarter, Francis and senior Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) combined on a strip sack on third and four that Colby was able to recover.
The Bobcats out-scored Colby 14-0 in the second quarter.
The first play of the second quarter set the Bobcats up nicely when Baron's punt only traveled 17 yards, giving Bates 1st and 10 at the Colby 46.
Plashkes immediately hit Williams for an 11-yard gain and on 3rd and four at the Colby 29 he connected with sophomore Marcus Ross (Mansfield, Texas) for a 25-yard gain all the way down to the Colby four-yard line.
The Bobcats' first two rushes after that got them down to the one and Williams plunged into the end zone with 11:40 left in the half for his second touchdown of the day and his fifth of the season.
Junior kicker Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) made the extra point, extending Bates' lead to 14-3.
Colby moved the ball well on their next drive, taking the ball all the way down to the Bobcat 20-yard line before senior Trevor Lyons (South Hamilton, Mass.) blocked Baron's field goal attempt.
The Bobcats took over with 8:55 left in the first half and proceeded to go on an extended drive of their own. Facing 1st and goal at the 11, Boyer ran the ball three straight times to get the ball down to the one yard line.
Head coach Mark Harriman decided to go for it and Boyer rewarded the decision with his first touchdown of the season and the second of his career.
The Boyer one-yard plunge made the score 21-3 in favor of the Bobcats after DeWald made the extra point.
Neither team scored again in the first half; with linebacker Joe Frake (Windham, Mass.) picking off O'Brien on the very next drive and the teams trading punts after that.
Up 21-3 at halftime, the Bobcats survived a furious rally from the Mules.
Colby brought in Christian Sparacio to play quarterback and he turned out to be the right man for the job. The Mules only threw for 53 yards in the first half but Sparacio entered the contest to start the third quarter and promptly threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns.
But he didn't connect right away with his receivers. In fact, Sparacio was sacked by the tag team of Harrington and junior Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.) on Colby's first drive of the third quarter.
Then Harrington sacked him again on the first play from scrimmage of the Mules' second drive of the half.
The Colby defense stiffened and forced Bates to punt, turn the ball over on downs, and punt again on the Bobcats' first three drives of the second half.
Colby took over after the Bobcats' second punt at their own 37-yard line with 3:04 to go in the third.
Sparacio connected with Alex Kramer for a 21-yard gain and followed that up with an 18-yard completion to Sebastian Ferrell, advancing the ball to the Bobcat 24. One play later, Sparacio hooked up with Ferrell for a 26-yard score with 1:07 left in the third quarter. Ferrell caught eight passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon.
The Bobcats went three-and-out on their next drive, giving Colby the ball back at their own 20 to begin the fourth quarter of play.
After two straight incompletions, Sparacio found Matt Richman on three consecutive plays for gains of 20, 4, and 11 yards, moving the ball to the Bobcat 45.
Ferrell caught a pass for 11 yards to move the Mules to the Bates' 34. After junior Jack Maritz (St. Louis, Mo.) came up with a huge sack, Sparacio responded by finding Braden Wilson for a gain of 21 yards down to the Bobcat 19.
Three plays later, Baron nailed a 36-yard field goal to cut the Bobcat lead to 21-13 with 8:58 to go in the game.
The Bates offense stalled on their next drive and Colby started matriculating the ball down the field yet again after a punt from sophomore Justin Foley (Lynnfield, Mass.) went into the end zone for a touchback.
Facing third and six on their own 24, the Mules got yet another big play from Ferrell, who made a leaping catch for a 23-yard gain and a first down.
After a couple more passes moved the ball into Bates territory, Ferrell got loose for a 36-yard reception down to the Bobcats' five-yard line. After a pass interference call put the ball at the two, Sparacio connected with Ferrell again, this time on a two-yard crossing route for a touchdown, narrowing the gap to 21-19.
But the Mules' two-point conversion attempt was no good when Maritz jumped up and tipped the pass near the line of scrimmage.
The Bobcats went three-and-out on their next drive, giving the Mules a chance to complete their comeback.
Taking over in Bates territory at the 48-yard line with 1:25 to go, Colby managed to pick up one first down on a 3rd and 7 when Ferrell caught a nine-yard pass from Sparacio.
Three more yards got Colby to the Bates 33. But on 4th and 7, too far away for a field goal try, Sparacio and the Mules decided to go for the home run strike.
But Lyons, preserving the victory for Bates, knocked down the deep ball attempt.
The Bobcats sacked Colby's quarterbacks five times on the afternoon in a very close contest. The Mules had 15 first downs and the Bobcats recorded 14 first downs. The Bobcats (278 yards) actually got outgained in total offense by Colby (308 yards). But the Mules did all their damage through the air as the Bobcats held them to 0 rushing yards.
The Bobcats look to win their third consecutive outright CBB series title next Saturday afternoon when they visit Bowdoin. Kick is set for 12:30 p.m.