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Mules win thriller over Bowdoin, repeat as CBB Champions

Brunswick, Maine - The Colby College Football team scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat Bowdoin College 47-34 under the lights Saturday night.  The victory secures the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) trophy for the second straight year to start Dick McGee Head Coach for Colby Football Jack Cosgrove's tenure on Mayflower Hill.

For those of us who made the trip to Whittier Field on the campus of Bowdoin College, we witnessed a treasure.  The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) allowed potential night games starting last season, and tonight was Colby's first chance to play under the lights.  The last time a Colby vs Bowdoin game totaled 81+ points was back in 1951 when 102 went on the board (60-42 Bowdoin win). The heated rivalry hit a new level when teams had to be separated just before the second half and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were issued to every player and coach on both teams.  Early dominance by Bowdoin's offense was swapped by late dominance by Colby, and all of the keys to Colby's successes or failures of this entire 2019 season were tested, and the Mules passed. 

Earlier this season Colby battled with scoring early or falling behind.  Tonight, Colby scored on it's first possession on a Matt Hersch (255 yards passing, 2 touchdowns) to Rory Glavin (8 receptions, 116 yards, two touchdowns) nine yard pass.  Andrew DeFranco (3, 88, 0) converted a third down reception from Hersch on a slant route for 63 yards to set up the score.  Bowdoin would strike back with three unanswered touchdowns and at the end of the first quarter the score was 21-7 in favor of the Polar Bears.  

The second quarter saw a little more parity from the Mules.  All season the Mules have been focused on establishing the run instead of unleashing Hersch from the pocket.  Staying commited to their gameplan, Colby scored rushing touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game.  The first ground score was from captain Chris George (headline photo).  George has been the leading rusher for the Mules this season averaging a little over 50 yards per game and has been an effective outlet for Hersch in the passing attack as well.  His three-yard plunge into the end zone would only be a sliver of what was to come for the lion-hearted back in his final collegiate game.  The second score of the quarter was from the hero of the Bates game, Devin Marrocco.  Marrocco (9 rushes, 47 yards, one touchdown) scored three touchdowns in the first leg of the CBB two weeks ago against Bates College, and when he found paydirt tonight it brought the score to 20-28 in favor of Bowdoin.  

The defense also stepped up.  Unable to halt the Polar Bear offense in the first 29 minutes of play, Colby forced Bowdoin's first punt of the contest with one minute to go in the half.  On a frigid night with nerves already aflare (Bowdoin had a player ejected in the first quarter for unsportsmalike conduct), the snap sailed over Bowdoin punter Michael Chen's head and looked like the Mules would turn the mistake into fortune.  Chen retreated, recovered, and remarkably got the punt off to relieve Bowdoin of the error, but Colby still had possession on the Bowdoin half of the field with a minute to play in the half.  Bowdoin held stingy, and on a fourth down attempt with the clock at zero, Hersch's launch fell incomplete in the end zone and to the casual onlooker it appeared the two rivals would enter the half 20-28 with Bowdoin ahead.  On the play, a late hit on Hersch (photo inset, right) out of bounds on the Colby sideline sent both benches into an uproar.  Minutes later, the two benches were separated and sent into halftime with the aforementioned sideline unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, as well as a new focus on what this rivalry meant.  

Earlier in the season, Colby's defense blanked Hamilton and Williams in the second half, and held Tufts and Amherst to single digits in the final 30 minutes in each of their contests.  Against Bowdoin the Mules were without NESCAC leading tackler Marcus Bullard and starting corner Asher Inman.  Could they be up to the challenge?  

Bowdoin scored on its first drive of the second half, marching 74 yards on six plays and stretching their lead to 14.  Those would be the last points Bowdoin scored on the night.  

Earlier in the season, Colby struggled with its special teams play in the one point loss at Middlebury where missed kicks cost the Mules the game, and the victory over Bates where woes in the punting game allowed the Bobcats to make a comeback and almost take the lead.  Tonight Colby kicker Moises Celaya buried his kickoffs, nailed five extra points, and made one of the plays of the game on a late punt.  Down by 14 in the third, the snap took Celaya far to his right where on his approach he felt the pressure of the rush.  He held his kick, scrambled further to his right, and got off a punt that sent Bowdoin back and reestablished field position for the Mules.  Celays's next punt pinned the Polar Bears at their own six yard line.  The final punt of the contest from the Mules actually came from Hersch at quarterback in the fourth quarter.  Facing a 4th and 19 from the Bowdoin 40, Cosgrove pulled out a brilliant quick kick as the Mules lined up with the apparition of attempting to convert.  We saw the quick kick from Colby in the Amherst game, with positive results.  This one was downed at the Bowdoin one yard line, a brilliant result.  

To hold a team to 6 points in a half takes great tackling and great halftime adjustments.  A spark or two from turnovers can also help.  How about four?  Earlier in the season, the Mules battled the turnover margin and found themselves needing to make major adjustments.  After the earlier third quarter touchdown, Bowdoin punted twice, turned the ball over on downs once, fumbled once, and finished the game with three interceptions. George Eisenhauer (photo inset, right) led the Mules in total tackles with seven, recovered his third fumble of the season, and made his first interception of the year.  

Colby took advantage of each forced mistake, and George found himself the benefactor.  After Glavin's second touchdown reception of the game brough the score to 27-34, George scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, each on runs of 26 yards.  The final score came as Colby needed one more first down conversion to run out the clock, and instead he converted more bright lights to the scoreboard and cheers from the Mule sideline en route to 151 yards on the ground, 32 through the air, and four touchdowns.  

With chants of "CBB" and "Ring the Bell" the Colby faithful were astonished and elated at this game for the ages.