LEWISTON, Maine -- An unforgiving defense and the quick feet of Shawn Doherty took the Bates football team a long way on Homecoming Saturday.
Bates outgained Colby 288-14 on the ground and 412-151 overall en route to a 31-6 win at Garcelon Field, spoiling the return of Bates alum Jonathan Michaeles, who is in his first year as Colby's head coach.
Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.) ran for a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter, then turned a screen pass from senior Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.) into a 50-yard touchdown seven minutes later, opening up a 24-0 lead with 12:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Bates (3-3) is off to its best six-game start since the Bobcats were 4-2 in 1982. It is the Bobcats' first win over their in-state rivals since 2008, and only their second in the past 12 years.
Bates can now claim the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) championship with a win at Bowdoin (1-5) next Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12:30pm in Brunswick (Video / Live Stats). A win at Bowdoin would also guarantee Bates' first finish of .500 or better since going 4-4 in 1999. The Bobcats have matched last year's win total with two games remaining on the schedule, including Nov. 10 at home against Hamilton (1-5).
Bates controlled possession for over 10 minutes in both the second and fourth quarters, helping to preserve a 10-0 lead going into halftime and cutting down Colby's chances for a comeback late in the game. The Mules were unable to score until 6:48 remained in the fourth quarter, when Justin Ciero hit Indigo Dow for a 5-yard passing touchdown.
Smith carried the ball a career-high 30 times for a net of 93 yards and one touchdown. He also completed 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, though he was sacked four times and fumbled the ball away three times.
Ciero completed 18 of 40 passes with two interceptions and a touchdown. He was also sacked four times, and he fumbled the ball away twice. Dow led all receivers with five catches for 69 yards and a score.
The first half, and the beginning of the second half, were riddled with turnovers and penalties on both sides. Fifteen penalties were charged altogether in the first half, accounting for 156 yards. In the end, Bates was penalized 13 times for 142 yards, and Colby was flagged 10 times for 92 yards. There were also eight fumbles in the game, five by the Bobcats.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bates got on the scoreboard in an unusual way. Sophomore David Kurey (West Chester, Pa.) angled a high punt from Colby's 41-yard line inside the Colby 5. The ball bounced once on the ground and struck Colby's would-be kick returner in the leg. Bates senior Brian Gallagher (North Attleboro, Mass.) then pounced on the ball in the end zone. After some intensely awaited discussion between the officials, Bates was awarded a touchdown.
Bates immediately got the ball back again, as Ciero was strip-sacked by junior Matt Comstock (Amherst, N.H.) on the Mules' first play from scrimmage, and sophomore John Durkin (Rye Beach, N.H.) recovered the ball for the Bobcats at the Colby 31.
Colby's defense held Bates to a three-and-out, though, and the teams traded possessions twice more before Bates tacked on a 31-yard field goal by junior Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.) with 4:22 left in the half. Donahue's career-long field goal had more than enough distance and made him 7-for-7 this season on field goals. He entered the weekend ranked 13th in Division III in field goals per game.
Colby's last drive of the half took the Mules as far as the Bates 32, where David Bendit's 49-yard field goal attempt missed.
The Mules drove 45 yards on their second possession of the third quarter, getting as far as Bates' 33, but Durkin strip-sacked Ciero and senior Matt Gaither (Winchester, Mass.) recovered at Bates' 41.
After Smith picked up 14 yards on a quarterback keeper, taking Bates into Colby territory, Smith pitched perfectly to Doherty trailing on his right, and the junior slotback chased open daylight, outrunning Colby's secondary up the right sideline and all the way to the end zone, a 45-yard score, making it 17-0 Bates with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
Bates linebacker Evan Dowd (Longmeadow, Mass.) chased down Ciero from behind for his second sack of the day to force Colby to punt from their own 45 on their next possession. Ryan Grunseich drilled a 52-yard punt to pin Bates at its own 3-yard line, but the Bobcats ran the ball four times and produced a pair of first downs before the third quarter came to a close.
Nine consecutive rushes by four different Bates backs took the Bobcats from the 3 to the 50 to start the fourth quarter. From there, Smith threw a perfect swing pass to Doherty in the left flat, where he deftly gathered the ball, used junior wide receiver Kevin Davis's (North Andover, Mass.) sealing block of a Colby defensive back on the outside, and quickly cut up the seam into open field. No one could catch Doherty -- he got away from a lunging Daniel Maddox at the 15 and galloped in the rest of the way, a total of 50 yards. It was his second TD of the game and his fifth in the past three weeks. Bates led 24-0 with 12:50 left in the game.
Colby wasn't out of it yet, however. The Mules drove from their own 32 to the Bates' 5, helped by a 15-yard penalty called on Bates on a 3rd and 10, followed by a 40-yard connection from Ciero to Dow up the left sideline, where he was finally dragged down by senior Kyle Starr (Concord, N.H.) at the Bates 11. Ciero threw for six more yards to Jason Buco to reach the 5, but three straight incompletions from there, including Starr's breakup of a pass lofted to Dow on fourth down, returned the ball to Bates on downs.
The Bobcats ran four times out to the 22, but on 2nd and 5, with Smith running a keeper up the middle, Colby's Phil Amato snatched the ball from Smith's grip and ran the ball back the other way for 12 yards before Doherty stopped him from scoring at the 8. Three plays later, Ciero found Dow open in the left flat to close the gap to 24-6, with 6:48 left in the game. Colby tried a two-point conversion, but Ciero's pass into the end zone was intercepted by leaping Bates sophomore Mike Kelleher (Saugus, Mass.).
Colby successfully recovered an onside kick, but the Mules were flagged for a false start to nullify the play. Their second attempt was unsuccessful, setting up Bates at the Colby 40. After an 11-yard connection from Smith to first-year Harrison Murphy (Whitinsville, Mass.), the Bobcats ran seven straight times, finishing off their final scoring drive with Smith's 2-yard touchdown run off-tackle. Donahue made his fourth extra point for a 31-6 lead.
Doherty finished the game with 66 yards on six carries and 56 receiving yards on two catches. Senior Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.) ran 10 times for 53 yards, and sophomore Mac Jackson (Hood River, Ore.) carried six more times for 32 yards. Davis had five catches for 45 yards.
Henry Nelson led Colby's defense with a game-high 13 tackles. Amato added eight tackles and recovered two fumbles, and Ryan Veillette had eight more tackles, including 2.5 sacks.
For Bates, sophomore Gilbert Brown (Gloucester, Mass.) had a team-high eight tackles and also broke up two passes. Durkin had three tackles for a loss among his six takedowns. Gaither added five tackles with a fumble recovery, a batted pass and three quarterback hurries. Junior Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.) made his fourth interception of the season.
At 12:30pm next Saturday, Nov. 3, Colby plays at Tufts while Bates plays for the CBB title at Bowdoin.