/seasons/2011/contrib/20110920hx920z

Season Preview: Bates looks to take the next big step

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LEWISTON, Maine -- Could this be the year the Bates College football team takes a big step forward? Or might that have occurred already, last year, in disguise?

The Bobcats finished 2-6 in 2010, but while no one wants to make excuses, their record could have been markedly different. After lifting a long-standing burden by beating Tufts in Week 2, they were on the verge of being 2-2, holding a 20-14 lead late in the fourth quarter, two fumbles in the final two minutes of the game helped Wesleyan prevail 27-20. In Week 5, the Bobcats allowed another potential win get away, turning the ball over on downs, a yard short of a first down, inside the Colby 5 as the Mules escaped Garcelon Field with a 10-6 win. Bates was in position the following week to lick its wounds with a win at Bowdoin, but more frustrating miscues led to a 21-20 setback.

In other words, playing shoulda/coulda vigorously enough could lead one to surmise that the distance between 2-6 and 5-3 was traversable. Bates' senior class of players plans on making this the year that distance is bridged. "Our senior class this year has a lot more guys that have seen significant playing time for us," said 14th-year head coach Mark Harriman. "It's one of the strongest group of leaders we've had since I've been here," starting with the captains: linebacker Kevin Helm (Norwell, Mass.), defensive lineman Pat Quinn (Milford, Mass.) and offensive lineman Andrew Scichilone (Sandwich, Mass.).

Offense

In the second year of Bates' implementation of the triple option offense, the backfield is primed to step forward with an effective and hard to defend ground attack. The Bobcats' leading rusher in his first two seasons, shifty and hard-charging junior Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.), will be one constant option for junior quarterback Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.) to go to on running plays, as will fellow "dive back" sophomore Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine), who showed a flash of potential last season at Bowdoin, with 47 yards on seven carries, and looked particularly strong in Bates' preseason scrimmage against Colby. Juniors Ryan MacDonald (Melrose, Mass.) and Teddy Downs (South Boston, Mass.) and first-year Lani Eversage (Swanville, Maine) form a swift and potent group of slotbacks for Smith to pitch to.

One big question heading into preseason was who would play quarterback -- Smith and Ryan Katon '12 had more or less split the snaps over the past two seasons, with pretty comparable results. But Katon opted to leave the team prior to preseason practices, making the athletic and talented Smith Bates' undisputed signal-caller. Smith (career: 11 games, 106-199-9, 1207 yards, 9 TD) looked sharp in the Colby scrimmage and may prove to be the key to Bates' fortunes.

Paired with the triple option backfield, the team's biggest offensive weapon is 6-foot-7 wide receiver John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.), who emerged last season as the threat that opposing defenses and coaches must account for on every down. Squires caught 30 passes for 510 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, including a sparkling nine-catch, 142-yard, two-touchdown performance in Bates' win over Tufts. Opposite Squires at the other wide receiver position is senior Tom Finkenstaedt (Norwell, Mass.), a heady presence on the field who started all eight games last season, catching eight passes for 65 yards. Sophomore Kevin Davis (North Andover, Mass.) could become a primary target for Smith as well.

The Bobcats figured to have a deep and experienced offensive line to build their offense around, but that was before preseason injuries dashed the hopes of 2010 starters Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine), an All-NESCAC left tackle, and junior Mark Sylvester (Everett, Mass.), already a two-year starter. Bates still has some high-quality players returning to the line, but may require a less-experienced player to step forward into a starting role, which today's starting left guard, rookie Larry Guinee (Peabody, Mass.), has done. The returning starters are Scichilone, who started at center for Bates' first two games last season but suffered a season-ending injury, and sophomore Liam O'Neil (Duxbury, Mass.), who earned the starting right tackle job last year in an impressive rookie season. After an impressive showing in preseason practice, junior Matt Antonellis (Sudbury, Mass.), an athletic former tight end, will start at left tackle, and sophomore Michael Bernstein (New York, N.Y.), who played well as a rookie, starts at right guard to form a massive right side of the line with O'Neil.

Promising rookies on the offensive side of the ball for Bates include quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) wide receiver Kyle Farber (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and slotback Mac Jackson (Hood River, Ore.).

Defense
Perhaps it isn't surprising that the strength of Bates' 3-5-3 defense figures to be the "5" part of the formation: the linebackers. The inside linebacker trio is helmed by Helm, the leading tackler in the NESCAC last season. Senior Will Taft (Hamilton, Mass.), who came on strong in the second half last season, is primed for a big senior season, as is senior Joe Drinkwater (Walpole, Mass.), with junior Josh Chronopoulos (Lowell, Mass.) and junior Joe Dell'Erario (Weston, Mass.) providing excellent depth.

At outside linebacker, which in Bates' scheme is a kind of hybrid linebacker/defensive back position, senior Brett McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) is a fourth-year starter with excellent playmaking ability on one side. Into the opposite OLB position slips 6-foot-0, 205-pound senior Cam Evans (Norwell, Mass.), another fourth-year starter and proven playmaker who makes the unusual transition from cornerback to linebacker. Kyle Aulet (Belmont, Mass.) is another linebacker, like Taft and Drinkwater, poised to make a big impact in his senior season.

The secondary is spearheaded by sophomore free safety Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.), whose explosive rookie season netted six interceptions and All-NESCAC honors. Juniors Chris Alfiero (Polson, Mont.) and Kyle Starr (Concord, N.H.), both of whom have a year of experience at starting cornerback, return as Bates' top cover men.

The challenge that Bates' defensive line may never quite overcome is replacing graduated All-NESCAC tackle Devin Horvath. But big, talented and athletic Tyler Kuehl (Plymouth, N.H.) is back for another season of big plays, and he and Quinn head a promising group that includes junior Matt Gaither (Winchester, Mass.), sophomore Matt Comstock (Amherst, N.H.)

A strong group of rookie prospects will be called upon quickly, among them defensive end Sam Hundley (Cheshire, Conn.) and linebackers Steven Hild (West Hartford, Conn.), Gilbert Brown (Gloucester, Mass.) and Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.).

Special Teams

Four seasons with Gavin Segall-Abrams as Bates' full-time punter and kicker have come to an end. Junior Evan Dowd (Longmeadow, Mass.) starts in Week 1 at punter, while the placekicker is sophomore Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.). Alfiero and McAllister are likely to handle kick returns, and Quinn returns as Bates' reliable long snapper.

Outlook

Harriman says if Bates can maintain its upward arc in terms of physicality -- he says that's what led Bates to getting into more crunch-time situations in 2010 than in 2009 -- then experience and accountability should take over when the Bobcats return to crunch time.

"We will be in those close, late-game situations again," he said, "and our biggest challenge is having confidence in our abilities and finding a way to come out on top."

Oct. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Bridgewater State 24, at Mass-Dartmouth 22
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Final
at UW-Whitewater 21, UW-La Crosse 14
Video Box Score Recap
Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
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Final
Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
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Final
at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
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Final
at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
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Final
Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
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Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Olivet 47, Albion 26
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Final
at Wesleyan 41, Bates 23
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Final
Union 27, at Rochester 0
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Final
Amherst 40, at Colby 7
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Final
at Western New England 41, Endicott 14
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Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Final - OT
at Plymouth State 16, Framingham State 13
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Final
at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
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Final
Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
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Final
at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
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Final
at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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Final
DePauw 26, at Denison 17
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Final
at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
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Final
at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
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Final
at Husson 49, Castleton 0
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Final
Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
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Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Final
Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
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Final
at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
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Final
Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
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Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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Final
at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
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Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Final
at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
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Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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Final
at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
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at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
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at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
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Final
at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
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Final
Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
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Final
at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
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Final - 2OT
Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
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Final
Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
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Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Final
Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
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Final
at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
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Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Final
Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
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Final
at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
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Final
Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
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Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Final
Curry 40, at Becker 0
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Final
TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
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Final
at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
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Final
Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
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Final
at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
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Final
at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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Final
at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
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Final
Alma 27, at Aurora 19
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Final
at Rockford 29, Concordia-Chicago 14
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Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
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Final
at Lakeland 57, Benedictine 21
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Final
at St. Norbert 10, Chicago 0
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Final
St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
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Final
Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
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Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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Final
at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
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Final
Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
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Final
Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Final
Central 30, at Coe 19
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Final
Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
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Final
at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Final
Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
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Final
Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
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Final
MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
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Final
Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
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Final
at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
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Final
at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
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Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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Final
at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
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Final
Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
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Final
at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Final
Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
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Final
at Hope 22, Adrian 3
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Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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Cancelled
La Verne at Occidental
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Final
Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
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Final
at Cal Lutheran 42, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20
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Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Final
at Pacific 35, Puget Sound 27
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Final
Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
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Final
at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
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Final
at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
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Final - 5OT
at St. John Fisher 39, Utica 36
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Final - OT
at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
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Final
at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
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Final
Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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Final
at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
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Final
at Simpson 38, Luther 17
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Final
at Chapman 45, Redlands 26
Video Video Box Score Recap Recap
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Recap Box Score
Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
Box Score Recap Live stats
Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
Video Box Score
Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
Box Score
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Recap Box Score