Football preview: New-look Bobcats host Mammoths in 2018 opener

Brendan Costa throws with pass rusher Tyler Harrington in pursuit at a Bates preseason practice. Both Costa and Harrington figure largely in Bates' plans this season. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- With new coaches, systems and uniforms in place, the Bates football team will surely look quite a bit different this Saturday in its 2018 season opener from the way it appeared one year ago. Meanwhile, for the Bobcats' opening-day visitors, the E.J. Mills era at Amherst College rolls along into its 22nd season.

Bates (2-7 in 2017) hosts Amherst (7-2 in 2017) Saturday at 1pm in head coach Malik Hall's debut game as a head coach.


Amherst College at Bates College
When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 1 p.m.
Where: Garcelon Field | Lewiston, Maine
Live Coverage: Video | Stats
All-Time Series: Amherst leads 25-4-2
Last Meeting: Amherst 41, Bates 17 (Amherst, Mass. | Sept. 16, 2017)


SCOUTING AMHERST:

The Mammoths return 10 starters to a unit that led the NESCAC in total defense in 2017. As the centerpiece in Amherst's 3-4 defense, now-senior "Buck" linebacker Andrew Yamin racked up 13.5 sacks in 2017 and 21.5 tackles for loss among his 54 tackles, while linebacker Andrew Sommer totaled 68 tackles with five sacks. The Mammoths gave up a league-best 168 yards per game through the air.

Balanced and productive enough to average over 30 points per game, Amherst's spread offense returns six starters, led by junior quarterback Ollie Eberth (1,382 yards, 8 touchdowns) and senior running back Jack Hickey (640 yards, 9 touchdowns).

Amherst improved from 4-4 in 2016 to 7-2 in 2017, tying for second place in the final conference standings. E.J. Mills ranks as the senior head coach in the NESCAC, with a 128-41 record over 21 seasons.

SCOUTING BATES:

The Bates team that lost 41-17 in last year's season opener to Amherst was a good deal different from the team that ended the season, one major reason being the emergence of Brendan Costa, who made his first start in Week 4.

Add in a new coach who is seasoned but in his first year as a head man, along with new offensive and defensive coordinators; the triple-option offense of the past eight seasons giving way to the air raid offense; and a 3-4 defense replacing the 3-5-3, and Bates is certainly one of the more mysterious teams to watch in the first week of NESCAC football.

But a considerable amount of talent returns to navigate the new landscape at Bates, including nine defensive starters from 2017 and Costa, who figures to pass the ball a great deal more but will always be a dual threat to take off and run. How Costa and the rest of the offense adapt from one that rushed the ball more often and for more yards than any NESCAC team a year ago into one that may potentially top the league in passing attempts should be exciting.

LAST MEETING:

Amherst quarterback Ollie Eberth passed for 210 total yards and four touchdowns on only nine completions to lead the Mammoths past Bates 41-17 in Amherst on Sept. 16, 2017, in the season opener.

Bates trailed 6-0 after the first quarter but the Mammoths outscored the Bobcats 14-3 and 21-7 in the second and third quarters of action, respectively.

Tyler Baum and Jaason Lopez both scored the first touchdowns of their careers in the game for Bates. Baum carried the ball four times for a team-high 44 yards and a score.

Eberth hit James O'Regan for a 49-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and added a 75-yard touchdown connection to Craig Carmilani in the third quarter. He completed nine of 16 passes and rushed for 25 yards as well.

Sandy Plashkes started at quarterback for Bates and completed 7 of 19 passes for 44 yards with one interception.

Bobby Dee led the Bobcats with eight tackles. Conner Suraci pitched in with seven, and Chase Fulton and Max Breschi had six tackles apiece.

BATES' PROBABLE STARTERS:

SPREAD OFFENSE
LT 70 Matt Flanagan 
LG 68 Phil Simplicio 
C 64 Jack O'Brien 
RG 77 Yanni Falaras 
RT 74 Dan Marino 
TE 85 Isaiah Saunders 
WR 1 Kevin Claflin 
WR 26 Jackson Hayes 
WR 13 Marcus Ross 
QB 3 Brendan Costa 
HB 30 Zach Doyon 

3-4 DEFENSE
DE 97 Shane Collins 
NT 99 Ramon Ruiz 
DT 94 Walter Washington 
OLB 95 Tyler Harrington 
ILB 8 Chase Fulton 
ILB 37 Peter Daley 
OLB 33 Liam Greene 
CB 7 Coy Candelario 
S 6 Jon Lindgren 
S 20 Joe Frake 
CB 22 Devin Clyburn 

SPECIALISTS
K 80 Karim Darwiche 
P 2 Justin Foley 

AMHERST'S PROBABLE STARTERS:

SPREAD OFFENSE
OL 58 Jack Tyrrell 
OL 75 Brantley Mayers
OL 67 Dan Papa 
OL 65 Jack Griffiths
OL 78 Brendan Coleman
TE 84 Justin Berry 
WR 11 Bo Berluti
WR 5 James O'Regan
WR 81 Turner Garland
QB 10 Ollie Eberth
RB 32 Jack Hickey

3-4 DEFENSE
DL 38 Andrew Yamin
DL 54 Blaine Fox
DL 91 Rob Needham
DL 97 Greg Franklin
LB 18 Nick Tighe 
LB 48 Andrew Sommer
LB 42 John Callahan
DB 2 Nate Tyrell 
DB 1 Avery Saffold 
DB 37 John Ballard
DB 19 Matt Durborow

SPECIALISTS
K 20 John Rak
P 92 Henry Atkeson