Football turns the corner in '02
Going into their last game, the Polar Bears seemed hopeful that this finale would be the turning point for Bowdoin football. As the final seconds ticked off the game clock, the Bears knew that this was the game that changed the face of Polar Bear football.
The past two years, Bowdoin has played poorly against rival Colby. Both games ended with a score of 41-13. In last year's meeting, the score was 31-0 in favor of the Mules at halftime.
As the Bears could only muster 78 yards on the ground and 244 yards of total offense, it is safe to say that Colby out-played Bowdoin last year, evidenced by the Mules 445 yards of total offense.
This year, the Bears walked into the game facing a challenge. Colby was a dangerous team that ran into some unfortunate turns of events, leading them to a 3-4 record. Colby's tailback led the league in rushing yards, and their defense was one of the more experienced and tenacious units in the league.
During warm-ups, Colby tossed gasoline onto the Bowdoin's team fire, as they blasted over-played alternative music that is usually heard in Yankee Stadium and other "hip" places where sports are played. Bowdoin knew a challenge stared them in the face.
After the half, the score was 20-7. With Colby in the lead, Bowdoin had little chance to jump-start its offense, while the defense played all but two shorts series in the second quarter. Even during this time, the Bears kept themselves in the game by chipping away at Colby, including sophomore Rob Patchett's 94-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
At halftime, the Bears knew that they were not playing up to their potential. The fact that there was merely 30 minutes of football left in the season motivated the men in black, as they talked over adjustments for the second half.
The Bears came out flying in the second half, scoring 17 points in the third quarter, including two touchdown passes by senior captain Justin Hardison '03. The Bears' offense dominated Colby's defense, and Bowdoin's defense did likewise. The Bears came alive and played with passion. It seemed like this was the day to turn things around.
With ten minutes left in the game, John Rock '05 kicked a clutch field goal that put Bowdoin up by one point. However, with ten seconds remaining in the game, Colby tailback Aaron Stepka scored a touchdown to win the game. The Bears fought with fury to the bitter end.
The team was crushed. Coach Dave Caputi spoke to the team after the game and said, "This is the second best feeling in sports." To attempt valiantly, only to encounter failure, is one of those times when players cannot decide which emotions should dominate.
Each player's brain said, "We fought hard and never gave up. We lost. Was it enough?" Every player can attest to the fact that this feeling is far better than winning or losing a blowout.
Although the Bears did not win the game, it was, most definitely, the turning point for the Bowdoin football program. A huge part of this game's significance was the senior leadership on the field that day.
Each senior played until there was nothing left but physical existence. For that, every underclassman that participated in the game thanks the seniors. The many intangibles that the seniors instilled in the underclassmen in that second half alone is more than enough to keep Bowdoin's fire burning brighter than ever.
The Bears ended at 1-7, the same record as last year. The Bears only beat Hamilton College, just as they did last year. From the outside looking in, one may deduce that this is the same team as it was last year.
However, if you were at Seavern's Field in Waterville, Maine last Saturday, you felt something that record books cannot reveal. Vince Lombardi said, "It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men." In the hearts of each Bowdoin College Polar Bear, a war was won.