Last-minute interception stymies Ephs’ comeback effort

Kristian Lapointe ’14 returned a punt for 34 yards to set up the men’s first touchdown in their 14-10 loss to Bates last Saturday. -Photo Courtesy of Sports Information
Kristian Lapointe ’14 returned a punt for 34 yards to set up the men’s first touchdown in their 14-10 loss to Bates last Saturday. -Photo Courtesy of Sports Information

Three years ago, football (0-3) had a commanding series lead over Bates, having 22 wins and just one loss. Fast-forward three years, and Bates has won three games in a row against Williams, culminating in Bates’ 14-10 win over Williams last Saturday.

After the first quarter of back-and-forth possessions, Bates broke through on the strength of its running game, scoring a short touchdown run and converting the extra point to open up a 7-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the half. The Ephs then fumbled on their side of the field, but amazingly came out unscathed after the Bobcats missed a field goal. The Ephs were able to even things up later in the second quarter after a nice punt return by Kristian Lapointe ’14 led to a short field and eventually a one-yard touchdown plunge by Marco Hernandez ’14 to tie the score at 7-7 with 2:23 to play in the half.

The game remained even until late in the first half when the men utilized the hurry-up offense to move into the range of Joe Mallock ’14. Mallock drilled a school record 46-yard field goal to open up the Ephs’ first and only lead of the ball game, leaving things at 10-7 going into the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, Bates took the lead with 10:42 remaining in the fourth quarter on what turned out to be a game winning two-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-10.

With a little over a minute remaining in the game, the Bobcats went for it on fourth and two, only to be denied when Josh Helmkamp ’15 wrapped him up a yard shy of the first down. Williams burned a timeout with the ball at its own 25-yard line, and after a rush for no gain by Jack Ryan ’16, the Ephs got creative on second and 10. Tom Murphy ’15 initiated a successful hook-and-ladder play, in which Murphy completed a pass to Greg Payton ’14, who then lateralled the ball to Lapointe, who in turn lateralled to co-captain Alex Scyocurka ’14. Scyocurka carried the ball to the Bates 24-yard line with less than a minute on the clock. A penalty pushed the Ephs back to the Bates 34-yard line where Murphy failed to connect with Lapointe on first and 10. Murphy then passed to co-captain Richie Beaton ’14 for 16 yards to break the men into the Bates’ redzone. One first and 10 at the 18, Murphy attempted a pass to Lapointe that was incomplete before looking to Payton on second down and overthrowing him. Murphy then tossed one into the endzone, but could not find a Williams receiver, instead punching the ball into Bobcat Josh Freedland’s outstretched hands and ending the game on a touchback with just three seconds remaining. The interception secured a narrow 14-10 win for the Bobcats.

After committing three turnovers on Saturday, the Ephs now have a disappointing turnover margin of minus 10.

The Eph defense held the Bobcats to a lowly average of 3.2 yards per carry, which is strong considering the potency of the Bates rushing attack. The men were led by co-captain Ernest Higginbotham ’14, James O’Grady ’16 and James Howe ’16 on the defensive end. Higginbotham had an impressive 11 tackles and eight solos, while O’Grady had 11 tackles and seven solos and Howe recorded 10 tackles with eight solos. The offense was able to generate a pretty solid run game Saturday, as Scyocurka rushed for 112 yards on 24 carries. The pass game was again the men’s weak link, as Murphy went just 13-37 for 150 yards and two interceptions. Beaton led the receiving corps with four receptions for 29 yards.

“I’m proud of the way our guys played, and we saw glimpses of how powerful our offense can really be, but it was turnovers that put us out of the game,” Beaton said. “Looking forward, we need to keep running our same offense and minimizing turnovers. That will be the key to beating Middlebury.”

Next week, the men will head north, hoping to avenge last year’s home loss to Middlebury. The Ephs take on the Panthers at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday.