Football season wrap-up: Bobcats continue momentum

Senior captain Shawn Doherty helped Bates finish at .500 or better in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1981-82. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine – Bates College football finished at 4-4 this past fall, marking the first time the program has recorded consecutive seasons at .500 or better since 1981-82, furthering the team's momentum from 2012 and providing a strong outlook for 2014.

A number of players contributed for Bates in 2013 to help the team overcome a bevy of injuries, compete with some of the NESCAC's top teams, and conclude the season with back-to-back victories. The squad's 10-member senior class went 9-7 over its final 16 games after starting 5-11, changing the program's culture in the process and setting a foundation for the team's younger players to build future success.

"I am very proud of how this group handled the adversity thrown at us this season," head coach Mark Harriman said. "The amount of injuries we suffered during the year was challenging to say the least, but the 'all hands on deck' attitude the team exhibited was a testament to their collective perseverance."

The Bobcats took home a share of the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) title with their third straight victory over Bowdoin after winning the crown outright last season, giving the team a piece of the title in three of the last five years.

"From individuals willing to play different positions to how everyone pulled together during the week in order to prepare us to perform at the highest level, this group defined what teamwork is all about," Harriman said.

Awards and Accolades

Seniors Shawn Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.), Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.), and Liam O'Neil (Hingham, Mass.) earned First Team All-NESCAC honors in 2013, marking the first time that three Bobcats had achieved First Team laurels since 2003.

The team's Garnet Gridder Most Valuable Player on defense, Kukesh, led the NESCAC with 7.5 solo tackles per game and ranked third in the league with 10.1 tackles per contest. Also one of the recipients of the team's Alan C. Goddard '53 Award for career improvement, he gained NEFW Division II/III All-New England honors and Third Team All-East recognition after finishing the season with a team- and career-high 81 tackles.

Doherty, the team's Garnet Gridder offensive MVP, paced all players in the NESCAC with 145.6 all-purpose yards per game and stood eighth in the conference in rushing with 67.5 yards per contest while O'Neil, the team's other Goddard Award winner and the starting right offensive tackle, helped pave the way for the NESCAC's top rushing offense. With O'Neil forming a formidable right side of the line with classmate and right guard Michael Bernstein (New York, N.Y.), Bates averaged 231.5 yards per game on the ground.

A number of other student-athletes made their mark in the conference. Senior running back Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine) ranked fifth in the league in rushing (76.0 yards per game), junior punter David Kurey (West Chester, Pa.) stood third in the NESCAC in punting (38.0 yards per punt), and senior kicker Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.) garnered NESCAC All-Sportsmanship plaudits. Additionally, Kurey and sophomore offensive lineman Lyle Seebeck (Chicago, Ill.) gained NESCAC Fall All-Academic recognition.

Donahue and senior defensive lineman Matt Comstock (Amherst, N.H.) collected the team's Robert P. Schmidt Award, given to the team members who best demonstrated physical or mental courage while bringing honor and achievement to themselves and the team.

The team's Stephen B. Ritter Academic Award (top-10 cumulative grade point average) recipients included Bernstein, junior linebacker Adam Cuomo (Plymouth, Mass.), senior wide receiver Kevin Davis (North Andover, Mass.), Donahue, junior slotback Mac Jackson (Hood River, Ore.), Kurey, sophomore wide receiver Zach Radford (Wolfeboro, N.H.), junior defensive back Ryan Newson (Stanhope, N.J.), Seebeck, and senior linebacker Collin Sullivan (Darien, Conn.).

At the Bobcats' annual year-end banquet, Bates also announced its 2014 captains, all of whom are members of the class of 2015: linebacker Gilbert Brown (Gloucester, Mass.), center Larry Guinee (Peabody, Mass.) and wide receiver Mike Tomaino (Gloucester, Mass.).

Season Highlights

In their season opener, the Bobcats challenged defending NESCAC champion Trinity, taking a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter before falling 28-17. Curit, Doherty, and sophomore quarterback Patrick Dugan (Westford, Mass.) spearheaded a rushing attack that picked up 290 yards on the day.

Bates bounced back quickly from the loss, capturing a 20-16 win over Tufts on Parents & Family Weekend, giving the team its fourth straight win over the Jumbos. The Bobcats pulled out the victory in dramatic fashion as first-year running back Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 42 seconds remaining. Doherty earned NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance, which included 182 rushing yards.

The team continued its winning ways the next week, defeating Williams 14-10 for the third straight year after edging the Ephs just once in the first 23 meetings. Junior quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) and first-year Nick LaSpada (Billerica, Mass.) took over the reins for an injured Dugan and aided the Bobcats in scoring the decisive touchdown in the fourth quarter.

After sustaining a myriad of injuries, the Bobcats dropped their next three contests but still showed flashes of potential with various players seeing extended action. In the team's game against eventual NESCAC co-champion Middlebury, Reese gained 101 yards on the ground while fellow first-year James Semmonella (Orange, Conn.) rushed for 60 yards, and Newson made six tackles and an interception.

The Bobcats concluded the season in style, defeating Bowdoin 17-10 on Senior Day and Homecoming Saturday and following that win with a 38-21 victory over Hamilton in the season finale. Against the Polar Bears, Cannone and LaSpada put together a turnover-free performance, combining for 14-of-18 passing for 138 yards and a 36-yard touchdown strike to Davis, in addition to 113 rushing yards on 24 carries.

Bates then scored 31 points in the first half against the Continentals the next week as Doherty rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown and Cannone threw for 165 yards and a pair of scores. New threats also emerged for the Bobcats, with sophomore wide receiver Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) hauling in a 63-yard receiving touchdown and sophomore slotback Shaun Carroll (Clinton, Maine) rushing for 47 yards on three carries to help send the senior class out with a win.

Outlook for 2014

The Bobcats will welcome back a number of players in 2014 who contributed to the team's success this fall.

"With our injuries, a number of young players stepped up and gained varsity experience. That's a huge plus going into next season," Harriman said.

The squad will bring back three quarterbacks who gained a better understanding of the team's option offense this past season in Cannone, LaSpada, and Dugan after entering 2013 with no seasoned players at the position. Other returning skill players include Reese, Semmonella, and Carroll as potential runners in addition to Riley, Tomaino, and sophomore Harrison Murphy (Whitinsville, Mass.) at wide receiver. Jackson could also make an impact next fall after missing all of this past season due to injury.

Along the offensive line, the Bobcats can turn to Guinee, first-year Mitch Hildreth (Needham, Mass.), junior Owen Mahan (Camden, Maine) and Seebeck to anchor that unit after each of them made starts in the trenches this past year.

Defensively, Bates boasts several returning players who earned opportunities to play in 2013. Junior defensive back Mike Kelleher (Saugus, Mass.) ranked second on the team with 54 tackles while Newson stood fourth on the team with 46. Sophomore Michael Lee (Bealeton, Va.), a standout at cornerback, will also remain in place with first-year players Ben Coulibaly (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Trevor Lyons (South Hamilton, Mass.) also providing depth after seeing snaps over the course of the season.

At linebacker, juniors Brown, Cuomo, Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.), and Steven Hild (West Hartford, Conn.), as well as first-year Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.), all tallied at least 23 tackles last fall and will bolster the core of the team's 3-5-3 defense.  Up front, sophomore Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.), junior Sam Hundley (Cheshire, Conn.), and first-year Nate Friesth (Munford, Tenn.) will solidify the squad's defensive line.

Bates will have a number of known commodities at its disposal in 2014, in addition to the new talent the team always welcomes to campus in August, as the Bobcats will seek to assemble an outfit which can finish at .500 or better for the third straight year and continue to cement a winning tradition in the program.