Bobcats top Polar Bears 10-7 to claim CBB championship

Grant DeWald kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter as Bates won 10-7 at Bowdoin on Nov. 1, 2014. (File photo by Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

BRUNSWICK, Maine -- First-year kicker Grant DeWald made a 25-yard field goal with 1:14 to play for the final margin of victory, as the Bates College football team defeated Bowdoin 10-7 to win the outright CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) title for the second time in three years, and the 10th time ever.

Bates (3-4) has defeated Bowdoin four straight years now and claimed at least a share of the CBB title for the third consecutive season. Saturday's win over Bowdoin, combined with last week's win over Colby, decides the annual CBB series before the Polar Bears and Mules face off next week.

The Bobcats will go for their third straight victory and their third straight season at .500 or better in next Saturday's season finale against 0-7 Hamilton at Garcelon Field (12pm).

Both offenses struggled on a rainy, muddy and cold day at Bowdoin's Whittier Field, combining for 27 first downs and 537 yards. Neither team could score until Bates junior Shaun Carroll's (Clinton, Maine) 3-yard touchdown run with 1:58 left in the third quarter. Bowdoin evened the game on a 3-yard run by Tyler Grant with 8:36 left to go in the fourth quarter, but DeWald's first career field goal made the difference seven minutes later.

Carroll rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to lead the Bobcat offense. Junior wide receiver Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) caught seven passes for 69 yards while senior quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) threw for 98 yards and ran for 31.

Senior linebacker Adam Cuomo (Plymouth, Mass.) made a game-high 12 tackles (11 solo) for Bates, while sophomore linebacker Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) submitted eight tackles with a forced fumble. Senior punter David Kurey (West Chester, Pa.) had another excellent game with 10 punts for a 40.0-yard average, with three kicks landing inside Bowdoin's 20.

In the 117th meeting between the schools, neither team could get much going offensively in the first half, despite a few good chances. On Bowdoin's second possession of the day saw Tyler Grant sprint for a 57-yard rush down to the Bates 23. Two plays later, however, a fumble by Garrett Thomas squandered Bowdoin's chance to take an early lead. In the second quarter, Bowdoin was set up for a 25-yard field goal, but a bad snap spoiled the scoring opportunity. Bates was able to get into Bowdoin territory on two occasions in the first half, but couldn't find points on either drive, and the game entered halftime tied at 0-0. 

Bates finally broke through late in the third period, going 61 yards in 10 plays, covering 5:13. Cannone connected with first-year Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) for a 27-yard pass on 3rd-and-16 for the Bobcats.

Carroll made an elusive move in the backfield en route to a 5-yard gain, setting up a 3rd and 1, which Cannone converted for a first down with a dive over the Bowdoin 19-yard line. After gaines by sophomore Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.) and Carroll took Bates from the 14 to the 3, Carroll then sliced up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown with 1:50 to go in the third quarter. DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) nailed the extra point for a 7-0 lead, the first points of the game after 43 minutes of action.

The Polar Bears were limited to one first down in the third quarter, while the Bobcats more than doubled their rushing yards in the period.

Kurey eluded a near blocked punt and got off a 41-yard kick, putting Bowdoin at its 28. On the next play, junior defensive end Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.) tipped a Mac Caputi pass and senior Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.) gathered the ball before it hit the ground at the Bowdoin 35, a play that set off two turnovers committed by both teams in short succession. 

Bates returned the favor when Cannone was picked off on a bomb into the end zone by Jon Fraser. The exchange was all for naught, however, when Bowdoin was forced to punt the ball away after three downs.

The Bobcats then got a break when Bowdoin's Daniel Barone mishandled a Kurey punt, and sophomore Ben Coulibaly (Philadelphia, Pa.) recovered for Bates at the Bowdoin 31. Again the Bobcats gave the ball right back, however, as on first down Reese fumbled, recovered by Bowdoin's Tom Wells and the Polar Bears were in possession again at their 28.

Coulibaly then picked off a Caputi pass at midfield, but instead the Bobcats were flagged for roughing the passer on the play, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the play near the Bates sideline made it one of Bowdoin's biggest gains of the day. Instead of a turnover on 3rd and 12, the Polar Bears moved up 37 yards on the play. That and a subsequent 22-yard run by Drew Prescott set up Bowdoin's game-tying touchdown. Grant surged into the end zone and passed the 1,000 career yards mark on the same play, and the point-after tied the game at 7-7 wth 8:36 left in the fourth quarter.

Bates' offense took over at the Bowdoin 42 thanks to a 28-yard kickoff return by Coulibaly with a facemask penalty tacked on to it. The Bobcats then began the game's deciding drive, taking off 7:12 of the game clock while moving the ball 35 yards on 13 plays. With 2:53 left on the clock, Bates cleverly converted a 4th and 1 from the Bowdoin 9-yard line, waiting the clock out and appearing to be ready to call timeout before rushing to the line of scrimmage and handing off to Reese for a conversion. Cannone was stuffed for no gain on 3rd and goal from the 7, and DeWald was called out onto the field for his first collegiate field goal attempt, a 25-yarder. DeWald's kick arced up high and dropped down inside the right upright and over the crossbar to make it 10-7.

With the clock winding down, Bowdoin was still in the game, advancing the ball to midfield. On 3rd and 8 at the Bates 49, Caputi threw too high to Grant on a sure first down. Another incompletion on fourth down sealed the win for Bates with 32 seconds left on the clock.