BOWDOIN COLLEGE quarterback Noah Nelson (18) delivers a pass during Saturday’s NESCAC college football game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston against Bates. The host Bobcats came away with a hard-fought 24-17 victory despite 297 yards passing from Nelson.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE quarterback Noah Nelson (18) delivers a pass during Saturday’s NESCAC college football game at Garcelon Field in Lewiston against Bates. The host Bobcats came away with a hard-fought 24-17 victory despite 297 yards passing from Nelson.

LEWISTON

The strategy was simple. Bowdoin College junior quarterback Noah Nelson was going to throw, and throw often against Bates in a New England Small College football matchup Saturday afternoon at Garcelon Field.

For certain, Nelson did all that he could, completing 34- of-55 passes for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

However, the Bobcats did two things better than the Polar Bears. They ran the ball effectively and scored when they had their chances in a 24-17 win.

For the fourth straight year, the Bobcats maintain possession of the coveted Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Trophy, the first time a Bates group of seniors has accomplished that feat outright with sweeps of Bowdoin and Colby.

“It is tough, especially because I have never beaten Bates here,” said Nelson after watching the Bobcats celebrate.

“For the seniors, this is definitely important — four outright C-B-B titles,” said Bates senior linebacker Max Breschi. “Every C-B-B game is going to have its ups and downs, surprises. You just have to keep grinding, and we did that today.”

Bowdoin possession

The Polar Bears did just about everything head coach JB Wells wanted them to do in the first half. Bowdoin opened on offense and drove 53 yards over five minutes before the drive stalled. Bowdoin place-kicker Andrew Sisti watched as Jon Lindgren broke through and blocked his 40-yard field goal attempt.

The Bowdoin defense forced a punt, and the offense again methodically moved down the field. Nelson completed short passes to Nick Vailas, Greg Olson and Bryan Potter, with Sisti nailing a 22-yard field goal for a 3-0 Polar Bear lead.

With 4:42 left in the first quarter, Bowdoin had possessed the ball for over nine minutes, but only had Sisti’s field goal to show for it.

Bates quickly grabbed the lead. Quarterback Brendan Costa rolled out, found an opening, and after a cutback, sprinted 69 yards to the end zone, giving the Bobcats a 7- 3 lead just 14 seconds after the Polar Bears had jumped ahead.

For the third straight time, Bowdoin’s offense again moved the ball. A march that began at its own 4-yard line knocked nearly nine minutes off the clock. Facing a fourth down and one at the Bates 10, the Bobcat defense stepped up, stopping Nelson inches from the first down to turn the ball over on downs.

“You have to finish. The effort is fantastic and we get after things, but we have not been unable to finish, which is the most important thing at the end of the day,” said Wells, whose Polar Bears held the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the opening half.

“Our plan was to be as fast as we could, and we ran some good routes, something that worked for us,” said Nelson, who completed 17-of-27 passes in the first half for 169 yards. “We shoot ourselves in the foot. It is frustrating we couldn’t get anything offensively in the first half.”

Bates kicker Grant DeWald tacked on a field goal with 1:04 remaining until halftime for a 10-3 Bobcats lead at the break.

Bates grabbed a 17-3 lead on its initial drive of the second half, with freshman running back Jaason Lopez sprinting 37 yards to paydirt.

On Bates’ next possession, Polar Bear Christian Pridgen sacked Costa to force a punt. Bowdoin moved back into the game as Nelson finished off a 46-yard drive with an 8-yard TD pass to Olson to get the Polar Bears to 17-10 with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter.

Nelson began the season as the starter, but an injury sent him to sidelines. Two weeks ago, Nelson returned to the lineup after freshman signal-caller Griff Stalcup was injured.

“The great thing about this team, despite being hurt, the next guy comes in and plays as hard as he can,” said Wells. “We are playing a lot of young guys and it is trial by fire. I like how we’re playing. Unfortunately we are running out of time.”

The game shifted to the fourth quarter with Bates on the Bowdoin 1-yard line. On the second play of the final frame, former Oak Hill High School standout Kyle Flaherty rumbled into the end zone for a 24-10 Bobcats edge.

Back again came Bowdoin as Caelan Etti recovered a muffed punt return, followed by Nelson hooking up with Olson for a 26-yard TD strike to make for a 24-17 contest with 13:23 remaining.

Bowdoin held on defense, but a fumbled punt return was recovered by Bobcat Milan Lemon at the Bowdoin 18-yard line. The Polar Bear defense held, and when DeWald hooked a 27-yard field goal left of the target for his first miss of the season, Bowdoin still had a chance.

“The biggest thing was when we gave it back to them on special teams, our defense bowed up, then forced a missed field goal,” Wells said.

However, the Polar Bears, despite moving the ball once again, came up short, with Bates safety Devin Clyburn intercepting a Nelson pass to end the game.

“He is a freshman and he played a big role on our defense. I couldn’t be happier for him,” said Breschi of Clyburn.

“If we had five more minutes on the clock, I think we win this game,” Nelson said.

Vailas had 11 catches for 74 yards, with Olson adding nine receptions for a teamhigh 93 yards and two scores. Porter chipped in eight catches for 87 yards.

Costa rushed for 166 yards on 16 carries, with Lopez adding 79 on six second-half carries.

Bowdoin hosts winless Colby this upcoming Saturday at Whittier Field at 12:30 p.m. in the season finale for both teams.

Bates 24,
Bowdoin 17

Saturday at Garcelon Field
in Lewiston
Bowdoin— 3077—17
Bates— 7377—24
First quarter
Bow — Andrew Sisti 22 field goal,
4:42.
Bates — Brendan Costa 69 run
(Grant DeWald kick), 4:28.
Second quarter
Bates — Grant DeWald 25 field goal,
1:04.
Third quarter
Bates — Jaason Lopez 37 run (Grant
DeWald kick), 13:46.
Bow — Greg Olson 8 pass from
Noah Nelson (Andrew Sisti kick),
6:44.
Fourth quarter
Bates — Kyle Flaherty 1 run (Grant
DeWald kick), 14:33.
Bow — Greg Olson 26 pass from
Noah Nelson (Andrew Sisti kick),
13:23
Records — Bates 2-6, Bowdoin 0-8.
Up next for the Polar Bears — Saturday at home vs. Colby, 12:30 p.m.


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