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Football preview: Bates (2-6) looks to finish season with third straight win at Hamilton (2-6)

Tyler Harrington (95), Joe Frake (20) and the Bates defense will look to bottle up Marcus Gutierrez (13) and the Hamilton Continentals in the 2017 season finale on Nov. 11, 2017 in Clinton, N.Y. (File photo by Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

CLINTON, N.Y. -- Bates and Hamilton conclude the 2017 football season Saturday at Hamilton, in what has become a battle for seventh place in the final New England Small College Athletic Conference standings. Armed with victories against the same two teams and losses against the same six teams, the Bobcats (2-6) and Continentals (2-6) now face each other on equal footing.

While the teams' records are identical, Hamilton has been slightly less prone to the blowouts that afflicted Bates in the first six games of the season. The teams are virtually even in scoring average (Hamilton is at 17.1 points per game, Bates at 17.0), but Bates has allowed a league-worst 37.6 points per game while Hamilton is seventh in that category at 29.9.

Offensively, Hamilton and Bates are virtual opposites. Hamilton has attempted a league-high 318 passes and ranks third with 244.6 yards per game through the air, with just 86.1 rushing yards per game. And that's before the Continentals have faced Bates, which allows a league-high 278.0 passing yards per game.

Quarterback Kenny Gray, who missed Saturday's game at Middlebury but is expected to return to Hamilton's starting lineup, has passed for 1,609 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions on 268 attempts. His top two targets rank second and third in the league in receiving yards per game: Joe Schmidt has 51 receptions for 740 yards and nine touchdowns, while Christian Donahoe has 35 catches for 599 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile Bates, attempting the most rushes in the NESCAC (380), has become the top rushing offense in the conference in yard per game (211.0) following Saturday's 344-yard total against Bowdoin. Fleet-footed first-year quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) has rushed for an average of 135.2 yards per game in his five starts and already has the most rushing yards (781) by any Bobcat since Sean Atkins gained 1,069 yards in 2003.


THE PARTICULARS:
What: Bates (2-6) at Hamilton (2-6)
When: Saturday, Nov. 11, 12:00 p.m.
Where: Steuben Field (Clinton, N.Y.)
Live Coverage: Video (NSN) | Stats
All-Time Series: Hamilton leads 20-19
Previous Meeting: Hamilton 24, Bates 7 (Nov. 12, 2016 in Lewiston, Maine)


Hamilton Last Week:

Middlebury scored the first 41 points, all in the first half en route to a 41-20 win over Hamilton at Middlebury on Saturday.

Hamilton scored all 20 of its points in the fourth quarter. Hamilton outgained the Panthers with 373 yards of total offense to Middlebury's 350, but the Continentals had four turnovers and were flagged 10 times for 80 yards.

Sam Foley was 22 of 40 passing for 276 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his first collegiate start at quarterback. Joe Schmidt and Connor Cates were Foley's favorite targets. Schmidt caught 11 passes for 129 yards and tied a program record with his ninth touchdown reception this year. Schmidt set another team single-season mark with 740 receiving yards. Cates, in just his fourth game with the Continentals, had six catches for 97 yards. Mitch Bierman ran for two touchdowns and Marcus Gutierrez ran for 70 yards on 14 carries. Bierman is tied for fourth in the NESCAC with five touchdowns on the ground.

Cole Burchill paced the Hamilton defense with 11 tackles and Tyler Hudson was credited with eight. Alex Ganter had two of the Continentals' five sacks.

Special teams was a highlight for the Continentals. Sam Robinson averaged 22.8 yards on his four punt returns, including one he brought back 51 yards. Billy Wagner averaged 48.2 yards on his six punts and had a career long of 76 yards.

Jack Meservy was 11 of 16 passing for 212 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in his second career start for the Panthers (6-2). Jimmy Martinez, who finished with 117 yards on three receptions, caught two of Meservy's touchdown passes. Wesley Becton returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown and ended up with seven tackles. John Jackson led Middlebury with nine stops, including a sack, forced a fumble and recovered another.

The Panthers scored on the second play from scrimmage as Meservy and Martinez hooked up for a 65-yard touchdown. Middlebury forced and recovered a fumble at the Hamilton 37 on the Continentals' first play. Two plays later, Martinez caught a 22-yard scoring toss, and the Panthers led 14-0 just 88 seconds into the first quarter.

Bates Last Week:

The Bates football team rushed for 345 yards, including 171 by Costa, to defeat Bowdoin for the seventh straight season 24-17 Saturday at Garcelon Field, in the 120th clash between the old Maine rivals. Following the previous week's victory at Colby, the Bobcats captured the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) title outright for a team-record fourth consecutive year.

Costa rushed 20 times for his 171 yards, his fourth straight game with 131 or more yards. Bates ran the ball all day, with Costa attempting only five passes and completing one. First-year slotback Jaason Lopez (Marblehead, Mass.) added 79 yards and a touchdown on six carries and senior captain Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) added 63 yards on eight carries. Bates averaged 6.7 yards per carry.

On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore free safety Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) was all over the field for the Bobcats, finishing with 16 tackles (11 solo) and six pass breakups, the most by any Bobcat this season in either category. Lindgren also blocked a 40-yard field-goal attempt by Andrew Sisti on the opening series of the game. Senior linebacker Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.) also came up big on defense for Bates with 11 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Noah Nelson completed 34 of 55 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns for the Polar Bears. Nelson connected with Gregory Olson nine times for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Vailas caught 11 passes for 74 yards and Bryan Porter added eight receptions for 87 yards. Bowdoin was held to a net of 31 yards rushing on 26 attempts, a total depressed by Bates' season-high five sacks.

Bates' and Hamilton's Last Meeting:

Using a balanced attack on offense and some big plays on defense, the Hamilton Continentals scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Bates football team by a score of 24-7 Saturday afternoon in the season finale for both programs. 

The Continentals (3-5) outgained the Bobcats (3-5) 309-167 on the day, with 165 passing yards and 144 rushing yards. Bates also rushed for 144 yards but managed only 23 yards through the air. 

Hamilton quarterback Kenny Gray connected with Jordan Jenkins for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.

After the teams traded punts, the Bobcats responded with a long touchdown drive of their own. Starting at their own 23-yard line, Bates marched 77 yards on 19 plays while taking seven minutes and 26 seconds off the clock. After Tyler Janssen moved the chains with a six-yard run, a big unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Hamilton gave Bates the ball at the Hamilton 20.

Matt Golden ran for nine more yards down to the 11 and a seven-yard sprint pushed the Bobcats to the 4-yard line. Bates finally punched it in on a 1-yard Golden keeper, the second rushing touchdown of his career. 

The teams finished the first half tied at seven, and the game remained tied for most of the third quarter.

But the Continentals went on a 12-play, 86-yard drive to score the go-ahead touchdown. The drive took more than six minutes off the clock and Marcus Gutierrez capped it off with a 6-yard run to give Hamilton a 14-7 lead with 3:30 left in the third.

Down by one score entering the fourth quarter, the Bobcats failed to pick up a first down the rest of the way. 

But Hamilton got their offense going again, driving for a field goal with 9:04 left in the contest. The 11-play, 44-yard drive included a 20-yard strike to Joe Schmidt, who finished with a game-high five catches for a game-high 94 yards. Facing 4th and 14 at the Bates 24, Robert Morris drilled a 41-yard kick to extend their lead to 17-7. Then on the ensuing drive, Colby Jones basically killed any hopes Bates had for a comeback, picking off a Golden pass and returning the ball all the way down to the Bobcat 9-yard line. Gutierrez ran the ball twice after the turnover, once for eight yards and the other for one yard and his second touchdown of the game.