Like every bachelor party trip to Las Vegas, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth’s wedding, and Demi Lovato’s cultural relevance, all good things come to an end. After 679 days, Bobcat football suffered its first loss on Saturday.
Six hundred and seventy-nine days without loss? How is it possible? Some people might say the winning streak doesn’t count due to the entire 2020 season being canceled by a global pandemic. These people would be enemies. The truth is, before Saturday’s game against Amherst, Bates football hadn’t lost a game in nearly two years after a heart-wrenching loss in the CBB rivalry to Colby in October 2019.
Since then, the Bobcats have shamelessly gutted Bowdoin and pulled off a comeback against Hamilton – a game so legendary that the lack of an honorary day off in class still defies the imagination. Using the momentum left by those two wins, combined with a month of work under the guidance of new interim head coach Ed Argast, the Bobcats entered the game with hopes of ending a twenty-one streak. years of consecutive defeats against the Mammoths.
On a bright Saturday afternoon, Batesies filled the stands at Garcelon Field in hopes of seeing the Bobcats extend their unbeaten run as post-pandemic life attempts to return to normal. Delta Variant – and Amherst football – to hell with it.
The Bobcats’ opening practice featured ’22 senior quarterback Brendan Costa cashing in his extended NCAA eligibility in hopes of earning a place in Bobcat football history. Costa, who threw for over 1,400 yards in 2019, kicked off the 2021 season with two incompleteness in Bobcat football’s favorite weekly tradition – a three-way and away opening practice.
After a 46-yard punt by sophomore Archie Green Jr., Mammoths quarterback Chad Peterson ’23 connected with senior receivers Joe Masterson and Michael Immerma to put Amherst in the scoring position. Bobcat’s red zone defense then decided to dress up as Swiss cheese, leaving Kellen Field ’22 to waltz for an 8-yard touchdown. Bobcat’s defense struggled to quell Amherst’s offense, as defensive struggles once again lifted their heads from a defense that amassed just nine sacks last season.
We barely had time to visit the concession stand before the Mammoths were back on the notice board. With Amherst ahead of 14-0 within minutes, the excitement of the new season had seemingly dissipated as an omnipresent solemn attitude among the once-cheerful Bobcat loyalists.
It looked like the Mammoths were preparing to ruin the Bobcats’ return to the grill in a ruthless way.
After the offensive blitzkrieg, play picked up a much slower pace, with both teams exchanging a series of punts before Amherst was on the move again. As Peterson put the Mammoths in the red zone for the second time this quarter, the Bobcats’ unbeaten streak began to be in doubt. Fortunately, Anthony Costa ’22 came up with a clutch interception to negate the Mammoths’ chances at another score.
As the game entered the second quarter, Bates’ offense began to wake up. Brendan Costa led the ‘Cats onto the pitch where ’22 kicker Simon Redfern put the ball through the uprights for the team’s first points in nearly two years.
Redfern’s placement kicked off an offensive offense for the Bobcats who, after two turnovers from each team, were in the red zone for the third time in the afternoon and looking to make him count. Brendan Costa tied a pair of throws and runs to put Bates out the door before finding Sean Bryant ’22 in the end zone for the Cats’ first touchdown of the season.
The momentum clearly favored the Bobcats in the dying moments of the first half. Peterson’s first success was stifled by a defensive push that prevented Amherst from getting a first down in his second straight practice.
Bates took over on his own forty-yard line after a meager 29-yard punt from Michael Mitchel ’22, eager to get more points on the board. After a daring call saw the Bobcats convert to fourth, you could sense that a scorching game was imminent.
In the next play, Brendan Costa charged his arm like a medieval trebuchet and fired a pass missile into the lithosphere that descended from the sky just in time to fall into Mohamed Diawara’s waiting arms for a hit of 49. yards. to hit.
Whether it was an unusually hot 78-degree afternoon in mid-September, the many drinks the students had before kick-off, or the fact that a Division III quarterback looked like John Elway, it didn’t matter – Garcelon was louder and louder. than anywhere in Maine as the Bobcats took a 17-14 halftime lead, newly reinvigorated by their second quarter performance.
With morale at record highs as the Bobcats returned to Garcelon from their locker room in the Underhill arena, one thing was evident: They needed a defensive save. Unfortunately, having the Bobcat defense come up with a clutch defensive effort was a bit like getting a snail to do math – it won’t happen. Peterson got Amherst’s offense on the field before taking the ball himself into the end zone for a fourteen-game practice that took more than five minutes on the clock.
Bates’ offense did not go without a fight, as Costa responded with a long training session that culminated with another goal on Redfern’s field, bringing the score to 21-20. Bates and Amherst fans held their breath as the game entered the fourth quarter with just one point separating the two teams.
It was uncharted territory for both teams. Usually in the fourth quarter of a Bates / Amherst football game, Amherst’s third strings do a few practice rehearsals and most of the students go off to give themselves some Mono in an off-campus basement. But it was no ordinary game – the Bobcats and Mammoths were locked in a war that ended in the wire and everyone was sticking around to watch the epic conclusion.
Amherst was more than up to the task as Peterson joined Masterson again for a 32-yard touchdown reception that stunned the 1,500-plus crowd on Saturday afternoon. Conor Kennelly ’23 converted his fourth PAT of the day to take Amherst’s lead to eight points. While the touchdown was certainly a blow, the game was still in a touchdown and two-point conversion with more than enough time for a few late-game exploits.
For a brief moment, it looked like Bates was about to stage another epic comeback when Costa led the Bobcats seventy yards down the field into the red zone with just over six minutes to go. However, a streak of unfinished business from Amherst’s nine-yard line and a scramble from the quarterback put the Bobcats over the Amherst fifteen in fourth place.
Costa then tried to find Diawara for his second touchdown of the day, but narrowly missed his goal. Deep anxiety overwhelmed the Bobcat loyalists as Bates had just six minutes to muster any sort of momentum before their winning streak came to an end.
The odds of a Bates comeback were in the hands of the defense as Amherst took over from the downs from his twenties. Unfortunately, like a “are you up?” text, prayers for a timely defensive stop went unanswered.
Peterson once again drove Amherst deep into Bates territory, saving him precious time. After Kellen Field rushed to Bates’ 22-yard line, Kennelly got the chance to put the game out of reach with a 39-yard field goal attempt. Kennelly’s kick sailed through the air, ready to break Batesies hearts everywhere; then, as if by divine intervention, the kick veered to the left and missed a few feet. Garcelon broke out. The return still had a chance. The winning streak was, if only for a few more minutes, still alive.
The Bobcats took over in their own half with just over a minute, leaving plenty of time for a Lewiston miracle. Brendan Costa completed two first passes to bring the Bobcats to midfield with just under a minute left in regulation. Then, just when the stakes couldn’t rise, the Bobcat offense simply ran out of gas.
Costa was sacked for a loss of four meters before going on with two failures. Finally, in the fourth and fourteenth, Costa found Sean Bryant ’22 but narrowly missed as Amherst regained possession to seal Bobcat’s defeat.
Despite a new head coach, an injury-ridden team and the lack of a single win in twenty years against Amherst, this game was particularly competitive. The Bobcats didn’t show up for fun, they actually went out and faced one of the most senior football programs in the conference.
This level of competition is a welcome change of pace from a football team that failed to win a single game for nearly two seasons. While the winning streak may be over, the competitive spirit of the Bobcats is sure to last for many weeks.
The Bobcats hope for their first victory of the season as they face Middlebury in the road opener on Saturday, September 25 at 1 p.m. in Vermont. As the losing streak against Amherst continues, now at 21 straight losses, the Bobcats hope to start a new winning streak and return to their pre-pandemic successes in a post-pandemic world.