Wesleyan uses big plays to down football 44-13

Sophomore Christian Sanfilippo scored his third touchdown of the season in the Bates football team's 44-13 loss to Wesleyan on Saturday, October 13, 2018. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Wesleyan quarterback Mark Piccirillo threw for three touchdowns and ran for one as well to lead the Wesleyan University Cardinals past the Bates football team by a final score of 44-13 Saturday afternoon at Garcelon Field. 

The Cardinals (3-2) outscored the Bobcats (0-5) 23-0 in the third quarter to pull away for the victory. They outgained Bates in total offense on the day by a count of 429-157.

Highlights for the Bobcats included two fumble recoveries: one from first-year Jose Calleja (Secane, Pa.) on a punt and the other on a strip sack from senior captain Tyler Harrington (Haverhill, Mass.) that sophomore Ramon Ruiz (Haskell, N.J.) picked up and returned 68 yards for a touchdown. Senior captain Joe Frake (Windham, N.H.) paced Bates with 10 tackles. 

Sophomore Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) completed 11 of 24 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception but that was on a "Hail Mary" at the end of the game. Costa ran the ball 11 times for 26 yards. Senior Marcus Ross (Mansfield, Texas) caught three passes for 26 yards, senior Kevin Claflin (Ashland, Mass.) added a 17-yard reception and sophomore Christian Sanfilippo (Gloucester, Mass.) caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Costa. 

Piccirillo completed 10 of 15 passes for 185 yards. He was Wesleyan's leading rusher as well, carrying the ball 12 times for 85 yards. Charlie McPhee ran it 10 times for 58 yards and a touchdown. Glenn Smith rushed 15 times for 52 yards and Sean Penney added five carries for 47 yards and a touchdown. Dario Highsmith was the Cardinals' top receiver with four receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Matthew Simco added two catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Morris led Wesleyan on defense with 10 tackles. 

With the Bobcats trailing 14-6 at halftime, the Cardinals used the big play to secure the win. On Wesleyan's second possession of the third quarter, Piccirillo rushed 34 yards to the Bates 23. The Bobcat defense held though and Patrick Wolff drilled a 42-yard field goal to make the score 17-6. 

The Bobcats went three-and-out on their next drive and David Estevez returned the punt 10 yards to the Bates 45. Facing 2nd and 6, Piccirillo connected with Simco for 24 yards to the Bates 17. Two plays later, Highsmith caught a pass at the near pylon from Piccirillo and dove in for the touchdown, his second of the day. 

Down 24-6 with 7:13 left in the third quarter, the Bobcats took a risk on their next drive, going for it on 4th and 1 at their own 34. The Cardinal defense stuffed the Bates rushing attempt and took over on downs. On their first play from scrimmage, the Cardinals executed a perfect "flea flicker", with Piccirillo receiving the pitch from his running back and firing the ball down the middle to the end zone, landing in the hands of Simco for a 34-yard touchdown. 

A personal foul on Bates backed the Bobcats up on their next drive and they went three-and-out. Wesleyan started its drive on the Bates 43 and Penney ran for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. He appeared to be stopped after a modest gain but was able to somehow spin out of the tackle and get to the far sideline, where he broke free for the score, putting the Cardinals up 37-6 with 3:34 to go in the third quarter.

Down by 31, the Bobcats got a spark to start the fourth quarter. Harrington wrapped up Wesleyan quarterback Dan Smith in the backfield and forced a fumble. The ball took a few bounces before Ruiz picked it up and sprinted down the far sideline. The 261-pounder showed some serious breakaway speed, taking it 68 yards for the score and trimming the Wesleyan lead to 37-13 after the extra point with 11:47 remaining.

But the Bates offense simply could not get anything going and the Cardinals added a late McPhee rushing touchdown for the final margin of victory. 

As usual, the Bobcats kept it close in the first half.

On the opening drive of the contest, Bates worked the ball down to the Wesleyan 25, helped out by an 18-yard run by sophomore Liam Spillane (Byfield, Mass.) on 2nd and four at midfield. But Bates failed to convert a fourth and three and the Cardinals took over on downs.

Wesleyan did not attempt a pass on its first drive and the Bobcats forced a punt. The Cardinals forced a punt on the next Bates possession and Wesleyan proceeded to get the ball back at its own 49. A seven-yard pass to Highsmith and a four-yard run from Smith set up 1st and 10 at the Bates 39. Piccirillo took matters into his own hands, rushing for gains of four and three yards respectively before breaking free for a 32-yard touchdown, putting the Cardinals up 7-0 with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter. On his touchdown run, Piccirillo showed impressive patience, running it to the right and negotiating his way through traffic before sprinting away down the far sideline for the score.

After a Bates three-and-out, the Cardinals went up 14-0 when Piccirillo connected with Highsmith for a 58-yard touchdown. Highsmith caught the ball in the middle of the field while on the run. Without breaking stride he cut upfield and split the Bates defense, taking it to the house.

Down 14-0, the Bobcats answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive. A pair of Wesleyan penalties gave Bates a 1st and 5 at the Bobcat 45. Costa connected with sophomore Parker Smith (Claremont, N.H.) for eight yards to the Wesleyan 47. Another Wesleyan penalty gave the Bobcats 1st and 10 at the Cardinal 31. A three-yard rush from Spillane and an incompletion made it third and seven. Senior captain Kyle Flaherty (Litchfield, Maine) caught a pass for five yards and on 4th and two, Sanfilippo got three to extend the drive.

Facing 2nd and 16 at the Wesleyan 26, Costa found Ross for a 25-yard completion on the near sideline. Ross almost got in for a touchdown but got tackled at the one by Pat Leone.

After a couple of plays that went the wrong direction, the Bobcats executed a very well-designed play for a touchdown. On third and goal at the four, Costa faked the handoff to Sanfilippo out of the shotgun and rolled to his right. Sanfilippo snuck out of the backfield and Costa found him in the end zone for the sophomore's third touchdown in as many games and his first receiving touchdown of his career.

Wesleyan blocked the extra point and Bates trailed 14-6 with 7:45 remaining in the first half.

The two teams traded punts for the remainder of the half, with Calleja recovering the ball at the Wesleyan 36 with 16 seconds remaining after a punt from senior Justin Foley (Lynnfield, Mass.) hit a Cardinal player.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Taj Gooden sacked Costa on the first play from scrimmage to end any scoring hopes for Bates at the end of the first half.

Bates looks to get in the win column next Saturday when the Bobcats travel to Middlebury to take on the Panthers at 1pm.