Football drops close season opener 19-7 to Amherst

Sophomore Brendan Costa tallied his fifth career rushing touchdown in the Bobcats' 19-7 loss to Amherst on Saturday, September 15, 2018 at Garcelon Field. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates football team held Amherst scoreless in the first half and nearly came from behind to win in the second half before falling 19-7 to the Mammoths Saturday afternoon on Garcelon Field in new head coach Malik Hall's debut at Bates.

"We played hard today but getting better unfortunately does not always result in a win," Hall said. "If we keep getting after it and keep building it, we'll understand how hard it is to win and we'll be able to win tough games." 

Jack Hickey carried the ball 22 times for 137 yards and a touchdown to pace the Mammoths (1-0) and quarterback Ollie Eberth ran for 58 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 112 passing yards.

The Bobcats (0-1) got 44 rushing yards and a touchdown from sophomore quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) to go along with 12 completions for 90 yards on 21 attempts through the air. Sophomore Parker Smith (Claremont, N.H.) caught three passes for 40 yards on the afternoon.

On defense, junior Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) led all players with 12 total tackles, including a tackle for loss. Bates forced three turnovers and only turned the ball over once themselves. Senior Walter Washington (Rockland, N.Y.), sophomore Connor Hunt (Duxbury, Mass.) and first-year Michael Bulman (Hanover, Mass.) all recovered fumbles on defense for the Bobcats. Bulman had an impressive collegiate debut, sacking Eberth once and recording four solo stops, including two tackles for loss.

Both punters got a workout throughout the defensive struggle, with senior Justin Foley (Lynnfield, Mass.) punting 11 times for an average of 39.5 yards per punt. He had a long punt of 56 yards and pinned the Mammoths inside their own 20 yard line four times. Amherst punter Henry Atkeson punted six times for an average of 38.8 yards per punt, with a long of 48 and twice pinning the Bobcats inside their 20.

After a scoreless first half, the Mammoths marched down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter to get on the board first. Facing 3rd and 11 at their own 24, Eberth completed a pass to Bo Berluti for 14 yards and a first down. The Bobcats thought they had the Mammoths stopped after sophomore David Campbell (Marblehead, Mass.) tackled Eberth four yards shy of the first down at the 44 yard line. But on the punt, a Bates player ran into the punter and the five yard penalty gave the Mammoths a first down. 

Amherst immediately took advantage of the mistake, with Eberth finding Berluti for a 20-yard gain to the Bates 31. Then on the next play from scrimmage, Hickey carried the ball 31 yards to the end zone for the first score of the game. The Mammoths made the extra point to go up 7-0 with 11:04 remaining in the third quarter.

An illegal block on the ensuing kickoff set up Bates with terrible field position at the Bobcat five yard line. A three-and-out led to Amherst getting the ball back at the Bates 49. The Mammoths picked up a first down on 3rd and one which was quickly followed by an 11-yard Hickey run to the Bates 26.

After a three-yard Hickey rush, Eberth ran the ball 15 yards down to the Bates eight. He ran it again down to the one and after his first QB sneak attempt failed, the second pushed his way in to put the Mammoths up 13-0 with 5:23 to play in the third quarter after the Mammoths missed the extra point. 

Neither team scored for the rest of the quarter but Bates took advantage of a turnover to cut the deficit to six in the fourth quarter. An Eberth fumble on a bad snap was recovered by Washington at the Amherst 32. Then the Bobcats ran the ball with junior Zach Doyon (Eliot, Maine) on back-to-back plays before Costa did his thing, leaving multiple Amherst defenders in his wake while he sprinted down the near sideline to the end zone on a 26-yard run, cutting the deficit to 13-7 with 7:23 remaining in regulation after sophomore Karim Darwiche (Boca Raton, Fla.) made the extra point.  

But that's when Eberth and Hickey used their legs to get a huge insurance score. After a solid return by Joe Matterson to the Amherst 35, Hickey ran the ball for six yards and Eberth sprinted for 24 and a first down to the Bates 35. 

Hickey carried multiple tacklers for an 11-yard run to the Bates 24 and Eberth unleashed an 11-yard run of his own to the Bobcat 13. After Hickey bruised his way to the Bates eight, Eberth ran it in for his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon. The Mammoths failed on their two-point conversion attempt but nonetheless grabbed a 19-7 lead over Bates with 4:23 remaining in the game.

A Matt Albino sack of Costa caused the Bobcats' ensuing drive to stall and the Mammoths ran out the clock. 

The Mammoths outgained Bates 338 to 150 in total offense on the afternoon and Berluti led all receivers with six catches for 62 yards.  

Bates is back in action next Saturday when the Bobcats visit defending NESCAC champion Trinity. Kick is set for 1:00 pm.