Football Preview: Bobcats host defending NESCAC champions
Football Game Notes
Trinity College at Bates College
Sept. 26, 2009 at Garcelon Field
The Bates College football team hosts the Trinity College Bantams in the opening weekend of New England Small College Athletic Conference football play on Homecoming Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009. The Bobcats are coming off a very positive conclusion to their 2008 season, in which they went 2-1 in their last three games, and they are looking to carry that forward momentum into the 2009 season.
The Bobcats seek to avenge the 17-7 loss in last year’s season opener in Hartford. In that game the Bantams managed a 17-0 lead going into the fourth quarter, before senior Mark Flaherty caught a Ryan Katon pass to make it 17-7 after a Gavin Segall-Abrams kick.
This year’s match-up will surely be a great test for Bates; Trinity is perennially at or near the top of the NESCAC: over the past six years, Trinity has gone 8-0 four times. Last year Trinity outscored their opponents by an average of 10 points a game.
The defending conference champion Bantams come to Garcelon Field after averaging 28.4 points per game in the 2008 season while only allowing 17.5 points per game, second and first, respectively, in those categories. Trinity’s pass offense ranked second in the NESCAC last year, averaging 279.8 yards per game, as did their rushing offense, at 142.6 yards per game.
Trinity seeks to replace both the 2008 NESCAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, quarterback Eric McGrath and linebacker Tyler Berry. McGrath threw for 2,206 yards last season with 16 touchdowns, making him Trinity’s leading offensive threat. But First Team All-NESCAC running back Oliver Starnes returns to the Bantam backfield. Starnes collected 909 all-purpose yards, including 701 net rushing yards, and scored nine touchdowns in 2008.
Overall, Trinity seeks to replace the senior leadership they lost last season in order to maintain their high level of play. Junior Craig Drusbrosky and sophomore Blaise Driscoll will compete for graduated McGrath’s starting spot under center.
Trinity’s defense ranked sixth overall last season, allowing an average of 317.1 yards per game. The Bantam D will look to become the team’s dominant unit this season, as many impact players are returning for them this season including threeAll-NESCAC performers in senior defensive lineman Kyle Williams and junior linebackers Matt Allen and Ben Sherry.
The Bobcats enter the 2009 season coming off a 2-6 season last year. Bates averaged 14.8 points per game in 2008 while allowing 31.1 points per game, ranking eighth and 10th in the NESCAC, respectively.
Bates quarterback Ryan Katon looks to begin his sophomore campaign on a positive note and hopes to expand a rookie résumé that included 969 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and a 94.14 passer rating. Katon has a good chance of improving these numbers, throwing to potential All-NESCAC performers in Matt Gregg, Tom Beaton, Evan Tierney and John Squires. Along with these targets at wideout, Katon also has the advantage of having two tall tight ends in 6-foot-5 Ryan Weston and 6-foot-7 Sean Wirth.
But the Bobcats also look to improve upon a running attack that averaged 56.5 yards a game and ranked last in the conference in 2008. The Bobcats graduated leading rusher Greg Thornton, but his replacements are eager to contribute to an improved running game. Senior Judd Smith, along with sophomore Dylan Taylor and first-year standout Pat George, look to capitalize this year behind a veteran offensive line that only lost one starter from last year to graduation.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bobcats look to improve from last year’s numbers, in which they ranked 10th in the conference in scoring defense. The Bobcat defense boasts an athletic secondary led by First Team All-NESCAC safety Kyle McAllister, as well as a few other potential All-NESCAC performers including linebacker Ted Durkin, linebacker Myles Walker, and defensive end Rich McNeil. With a ball-hawking safety in McAllister, Bates hopes to remain close to the top of the conference in terms of turnover margin, after ranking second in the league with a +0.62 turnovers per game ratio.