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Bowdoin football beats Bates 35–20 to earn first homecoming win since 2015

October 20, 2023

Courtesy of George J. Mitchell Special Collections
OLD SCHOOL: Members of the Bowdoin football team and Class of 1961. The Polar Bears defeated Amherst College, Williams College, Colby College and Bates College in 1960.

Newly-inaugurated President Safa Zaki flipped the commemorative coin. With the grandstand packed full of alumni, the stage was set for a picture-perfect Homecoming football game. Bowdoin chants rang out across Whittier Field as the Polar Bears scored their fourth touchdown against Bates College.

“As a former player … it definitely gives you goosebumps,” Dave Best ’96 said. “The hairs stand up on the back of your neck, [you] feel that adrenaline rush and just that nervous energy during warm ups.”

The football team (3–2) defeated Bates (0–5) 35–20 last Saturday. It was Bowdoin’s first time beating Bates since 2018 and its first homecoming victory since 2015.

Bates took an early 10–0 lead, but the Polar Bears responded by covering 70 yards in five plays. At the end of the first quarter, Bowdoin scored off a pass from Andrew Boel ’24 to speedster receiver Colton Fahey ’24.

The Bobcats scored their final touchdown to expand the lead to 17–7 with fewer than 11 minutes remaining in the half. The Polar Bears took over in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns to make the score 28–17. Bates added a field goal in the third quarter, but Bowdoin’s victory was secure when Gordon Gozdeck ’25 intercepted the ball with under three minutes left in the game. Fahey scored his third touchdown of the game off a pass from Boel. With the catch, Fahey tied the program record with three receptions in a game.

Boel was named NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance last Saturday, ending the game with four touchdown passes. He now stands second place all-time in Bowdoin’s history with 26 career touchdowns and 337 completions.

“I think we have one of the best receiving corps in the NESCAC,” Boel said. “And our offensive line was giving me a ton of time.”

Homecoming Weekend drew a crowd of alumni who were excited to be back and see their old team take on a historic rival. Bowdoin had previously lost ten of its last 11 games against Bates.

“Bates was always a tough game for us,” Best said. “You always wanted to be at your best, and there’s a lot of traditions that started…. Bates week was always the boiled owl week because the saying in Maine hunting circles is that there’s nothing tougher than a boiled owl.”

Former player Emmett Lyne ’81 added that it has been exciting to see the team’s development over the years.

“I think that the passing game is more complex. There’s more that’s done with the passing game than when we were playing in the late 70s and early 80s…. The athletes are bigger, faster [and] stronger than in the past,” Lyne said.

Best noted the sense of camaraderie among alumni, Brunswick community members and parents at the game.

“You see a lot of old familiar faces and always some new ones as well. Meeting parents or the parents of the players and just seeing a lot of the community members—some that went to Bowdoin and some that went to the games—[is] always fun and really lives up to that homecoming excitement and expectations,” Best said.

Lyne emphasized the lasting bonds shared by his college teammates, many of whom he still meets up with for bimonthly dinners.

“I love the people that I played with and our coaches. We kept very close throughout the years for the good times and bad times—weddings, funerals, baptisms. It’s been a bond that’s really lasted for a long time,” Lyne said.

Gerard Haviland ’61 played offensive and defensive tackle for Bowdoin from 1957–1960. Haviland said that Bowdoin lost most of its games in his first three seasons, but his senior year, the Polar Bears defeated Amherst College, Williams College, Colby College and Bates.

“I have had a lifetime of memories. Those games have lived with me for 60 years,” Haviland said. “The thing that I admire most about Bowdoin is that they do sports right.”

Haviland is thrilled that Bowdoin is finding success this season.

“These kids, they’ve beaten Hamilton, they’ve beaten Williams, they’ve beaten Bates and they’re going to get at least two more wins,” Haviland said. “And they’re going to have memories for the rest of their life, too. They’re going to find many times where they face situations where you’ve got to reach back to your college years and the lessons you’ve learned in college, whether it was in the classroom or the football field.”

The team hopes to carry their winning record into the remaining four games of the season.

“What we have to do is just come out and throw the first punch, come out firing on all cylinders and just play our game,” Boel said.

The Polar Bears will travel to Middletown, Conn. to play Wesleyan University (3–2) tomorrow afternoon.


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