Football's late rally falls short in 33-28 loss to Tufts

Junior Christian Sanfilippo scored a career-high three touchdowns in the Bates football team's 33-28 loss to the Jumbos on Saturday, October 5, 2019. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Junior Christian Sanfilippo sc ored a career-high three rushing touchdowns and junior Parker Smith caught the first touchdown pass of his career but the Bates football team fell just short in a 33-28 loss to the visiting Tufts University Jumbos Saturday on "Back to Bates" weekend at Garcelon Field. 

The Bobcats (0-4) held multiple leads, including a 14-10 advantage midway through the third quarter before Tufts (2-2) responded with 23 unanswered points to go up by three scores. Bates refused to back down, tallying the final two touchdowns of the game and cutting the deficit to five. The Bobcats even got the ball back with 1:07 remaining but were unable to drive the field for a go-ahead score.

Although he didn't start the game, junior quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) returned to action after missing the Wesleyan game with an injury. He completed 19-28 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Costa did not turn the ball over in a strong performance, rushing eight times for a team-high 62 yards as well. 

Bates outgained the Jumbos, tallying 373 yards of total offense to Tufts' 366. 

But a few big plays in the second half hurt the Bobcats' chances.

Trailing 10-8, the Bobcats got the ball to start the third quarter. On 3rd and 10 from their own 25, Costa connected with first-year Mohamed Diawara (Philadelphia, Pa.) for a gain of 19 yards. Later in the drive, Costa ran the ball 37 yards all the way down to the Tufts' four-yard line. It took two tries, but Sanfilippo (Gloucester, Mass.) punched it in to put Bates up 14-10.

The extra point got blocked and the Jumbos pulled off their first big play of the half on their next possession. Facing a 3rd and 10 on their own 30, Jumbos quarterback Jacob Carroll connected with Frank Roche streaking down the near sideline for a 70-yard touchdown pass, giving Tufts the lead for good at 17-14 after the extra point. 

On the ensuing kickoff, the ball dropped at the Bates seven without anyone touching it. Junior Jaason Lopez (Marblehead, Mass.) charged toward the ball at the last minute, getting a hand on it, but he couldn't secure it and Steve Barsky recovered the loose ball for Tufts.

The Bates defense turned in an outstanding effort after the sudden change, stonewalling Mike Pedrini on a 4th and goal run from the one. Unfortunately for Bates, the bad field position led to a safety when Stephen Timmins dropped junior Liam Spillane (Byfield, Mass.) in the end zone with 2:51 left in the third quarter. 

The safety also gave Tufts very good field position on its next drive, starting at the Jumbos' own 40. Tufts kept the ball on the ground until Carroll found Dom Borelli for a gain of 13 yards down to the Bates 17.

Down 19-14 through three quarters, the Bobcats gave up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Carroll to Winton Blount on the second play of the fourth quarter, giving Tufts a 26-14 lead with 14:46 remaining.

The Bates offense went three-and-out and the Jumbos took over at their own 44 after a Bates punt. After one first down, the Jumbos pulled off perhaps their most impressive play of the game. On third and five, backup QB Trevon Woodson completed a pass to Brendan Dolan. Dolan turned in an incredible catch-and-run, pinballing off Bates defenders all the way to the house for a 41-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 33-14 after the extra point with 10:05 left.

Despite the deficit, the Bobcats refused to give up. On third and four from their own 31, Costa hit sophomore Christian Olivieri ( Hull, Mass.) for a gain of 40 yards to the Tufts 29. Then he fired a pass to sophomore Sean Bryant (Falmouth, Maine) for a gain of 24. Two plays later, Sanfilippo surged across the goal line for his third touchdown of the afternoon.

The Bates defense forced a three-and-out and Costa and company went back to work.

On third and six, Costa connected with Lopez for 10 yards and a first down into Tufts territory. Bates converted another third and six later in the drive when Costa found Lopez again, this time for seven yards down to the Tufts 24. 

On the next play, Costa completed a pass to Smith (Claremont, N.H.) in the back of the end zone for the latter's first touchdown of the season and of his career, cutting the Tufts lead to 33-28 after a successful two-point conversion. Bates purposefully took a delay of game penalty to give Costa more space. And he rewarded them by finding sophomore Derek Marino (Marblehead, Mass.) for the conversion. 

With only 2:57 left in the contest, Tufts failed to convert a first down on the ensuing drive. Sophomore Jack Ryan (Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.) and junior Liam Greene (Bedford, N.H.) stuffed Pedrini for a loss of two yards on the first play from scrimmage. Then Carroll found Dolan for three yards and Borelli for seven, shy of the sticks. Solid tackling from sophomore Owen Straley (Norwell, Mass.) and senior Zach Doyon (Eliot, Maine) forced Tufts to punt with 1:13 remaining.

Senior captain Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) recorded a fair catch of Patrick Walsh's punt at the Bates 12. The Bobcats moved the ball to the 29-yard line on a fourth down 11-yard completion from Costa to Lopez with 41 seconds left.

Then the Bobcats tried to attack down the field. But three straight deep balls fell incomplete before a completed pass on fourth down ended up shy of the sticks, securing the win for Tufts.

The two teams played a scoreless first quarter before Tufts got on the board with 10:49 left in the second quarter. On third and three from the Bates 36, Pedrini burst through the line for a 36-yard touchdown run. 

Bates answered on its next possession. On 3rd and 15 from the Bates 20, Costa found Diawara along the near sideline for a 21-yard gain. Then on another third down, Costa ran the ball 16 yards down to the Tufts 39. Senior Matt Golden (New Bedford, Mass.), who actually started the game at quarterback, came back in after Costa's run and ran it himself for four yards. Then he fed the ball to Spillane four straight times. Spillane made the most of his fourth run, scampering 18 yards to the Tufts four. Sanfilippo took it from there, powering it in for his first score of the afternoon. 

The Bobcats executed a nice option play for a two-point conversion. Golden pitched the ball to Doyon, who ran it in, putting Bates up 8-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

A big play allowed Tufts to score before halftime. On 2nd and 17, Carroll connected with Borelli for a 69-yard gain down the far sideline. Junior Connor Hunt (Duxbury, Mass.) saved a touchdown, dragging Borelli down at the four. 

The Bates defense stiffened after that and Matt Alswanger hit a 21-yard field goal to put Tufts up 10-8 at the half.

Carroll completed 16-21 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Woodson came off the bench on select drives and completed 5-6 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Pedrini ran the ball 13 times for 63 yards and a score. And Borelli caught four passes for 97 yards. 

Lopez caught a game-high seven passes for 39 yards and Diawara snagged four passes for a team-high 46 yards. 

Defensively, Greg Holt led all players with 11 tackles while sophomore Mike Bulman (Hanover, Mass.) led Bates with 10 tackles, including five solo stops. Sophomore Nolan Potter (Wells, Maine) had a nice day with six tackles, including one sack.

The Bobcats look for their first win of the season when they host Trinity (2-2) next Saturday at Garcelon Field. Kick is set for 1pm.