Last Saturday, the Colby Mules faced their rivals, the Bowdoin Polar Bears, under the lights for the final game of the season and to determine the fate of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) Championship.
With a win over Bates earlier this season, Colby had the opportunity to clinch its fourth straight CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) championship with a win over Bowdoin. The Bowdoin Polar Bears looked to make it a three-way split in the state series for the first time since 2011.
Last year at home, Colby scored twenty-one unanswered points in the final fifteen minutes to rally past Bowdoin, 21–10. A pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs by quarterback Matt Hersch `23 proved to be the difference in the game. Defensive back Joshua East `25 secured the win with an interception.
At 132 meetings, the Bowdoin-Colby game dates back to 1892 and is the third-longest rivalry in Division III football, standing behind only Williams-Amherst (134) and Kalamazoo-Albion (133). The Polar Bears won eight straight from 1892-1896 to open the series history and hold a 70–53–9 overall edge. Colby has controlled the series of late, winning the last six meetings. Bowdoin’s last victory over the Mules came in 2015.
Coming into this game, Colby’s offense stood eighth in the NESCAC in total yards but boasted the fourth-best defense of the year. Offensively, Hersch was fifth in the conference in total offense (173 yards rushing, 1,462 passing). Linebacker Julian Young `25 was second in the conference with eighty-five total tackles this season, while defensive back Nick Donatio `24 was tied for second with three interceptions.
With a victory, Colby would have its first winning season since 2005. The team played well this year but was on a two-game losing streak and struggling to win games on the road. The Mules looked to turn things around this game.
Bowdoin ranks sixth in the league in total offense and seventh in total defense. With a win, Bowdoin would have three victories in a season for the first time since 2013.
Before play, Bowdoin honored eighteen members of its senior class and their families with a ceremony.
Despite a level first half (tied 14–14 at the break), Bowdoin’s impressive run game and defensive line led its first victory over Colby since 2015 with a score of 21–14.
Bowdoin rode its opening possession of the contest seventy-five yards on sixteen plays for the first score of the game. The Polar Bears completed only one pass on the drive, establishing their ground game early. The Mules couldn’t stop Bowdoin on third or fourth downs, and this inability to prevent the run was the story of the game.
After Bowdoin’s score, Colby answered back with scores on its first two possessions to jump ahead. Running back Keon Smart `25 broke off for a forty-five-yard gain that set up the first score by the legs of Donovan Ganges `23.
The Colby defense then took over, getting tackles for losses and forcing Bowdoin to a three-and-out.
This defensive stand gave Colby’s offense great field position, allowing Hersch to find the back of the endzone in two plays. First, he picked up seven yards with a pass to receiver Cormac Wright `26, and then he connected with wide receiver Jack Sawyer `25, who turned a slant into a forty-five-yard touchdown.
Sawyer has been the team’s star receiver this season and his performance versus Bowdoin did not disappoint.
Bowdoin was able to score again halfway through the second quarter on a one-yard plunge, set up by a play-action pass that fooled the Colby secondary for a huge gain of thirty-seven.
After that score, both teams’ offenses couldn’t string together a set of successful plays before being forced to punt. The game was tied at 14 apiece at the end of the first half.
The second half proved to be a defensive clash.
Combining for thirty-six total yards in the third quarter, neither squad could put points on the board. The Mules came the closest, taking a well-constructed seven-minute drive to the Bowdoin 25-yard line before being pushed back by a penalty and later a sack on fourth down that destroyed the Mules’ chances of breaking the tie.
Early in the fourth quarter, Hersch was pressured and sacked many times by the Bowdoin defense. The Mules’ offense was still struggling to protect Hersch.
Bowdoin took possession midway through the quarter and drove down the field again to set up a huge fourth down at the Colby 5-yard line. The Polar Bears only needed a yard for the first down, but their running back powered his way past the first down marker and into the endzone for the score.
Bowdoin took the lead 21–14 and this was the last score of the game. The Colby defense stopped Bowdoin in the last minutes to give Hersch and the Mules’ offense a chance to score, but Hersch was picked off in the last two minutes, sealing the Bowdoin victory and the CBB trophy’s fate.
Bowdoin’s average starting field position in the second half was almost midfield (Bowdoin 45-yard line), while Colby averaged its drive starts at their own 23-yard line.
Bowdoin amassed 180 yards on the ground on fifty-two carries, only attempting eleven passes throughout the contest. Hersch was 18–33 from the pocket for Colby for 163 yards, collecting twenty-two yards on the ground. Smart ran for forty-two yards on the ground and led the Mules with seven receptions through the air. Linebackers Locksley Burke `25, D’Aloia, and Marc Dougherty `23 led the way defensively with eight tackles apiece.
Colby finished their season 4–5, ranked fifth in the NESCAC. Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin each end their seasons with a 1–1 record in CBB play. Bowdoin now holds a 71–53–9 advantage over Colby.
~ Julian Cangieter-Hernandez ’25
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