WATERVILLE — Football is back at Colby College.

Under sunny skies and new scenic background beyond the visiting stands at Harold Alfond Stadium, Colby took the field for the first time in nearly two years on Saturday afternoon.

The Mules fell, however, 21-5 in the home opener, in front a packed crowd.  It was the first time the Mules had taken the field since Nov. 9, 2019, when Colby beat rival Bowdoin 47-34 in Brunswick to repeat as winners of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) series for the second season in a row.

“It was good to be out here,” Colby head coach Jack Cosgrove said. “Obviously, we did some things really well and we did some things we’ve got to work on. We’ve got some inexperience, and we’re going to work through it.”

“It definitely feels like home (being out on the field) for a lot of these guys,” Colby senior running back Devin Marrocco said. “A lot of these kids, they worked their butts off. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who worked their butts off to get here. I worked my butt off to get to this senior year. It’s nice, you feel appreciated because there’s a crowd out here. We’re ready to go. I love it, you can’t complain.”

Colby punter Moises Celaya (12) is tackled on the Wesleyan 1-yard line by Wesleyan defensive back Corey Fausto (24) after recovering a high snap during a football game Saturday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It was a game of ups and downs for Colby, which has half of its roster full of freshmen and sophomores playing their first year of college football.

“Our bottom two classes are loaded with guys who didn’t play football last year, and this was their first (college) camp,” Cosgrove said. “It is a challenge, but everybody plays with the same cards, right?”

“We’ve got a great group of freshmen that have come in,” Marrocco said. “We’re trying to be a tough football team and I think we showed that today. We’re a tough football team. We’re going to try to hit you hard with the running game and then hit you hard on defense, special teams. See what we can do. The effort is always there, and that’s the No. 1 thing. The effort is 10o percent there, the toughness is 100 percent there. We can only go up from there.”

There were bright spots for the young Mules. Senior quarterback Matt Hersch was 17 of 29 passing for 179 yards, and built a rapport during the game with junior wide receiver Matt Panker, who had seven receptions for 83 yards. Freshman running back Keon Smart showed a quick burst out of the backfield, leading Colby with 42 yards on eight carries, and he also had four receptions.

“Defense certainly did a nice job,” Cosgrove said. “Just some inconsistency on offense.”

Mistakes on back-to-back possessions in the first half ultimately proved  a crippling blow for Colby (0-1). Up 3-0 in the second quarter, an errant snap on a punt attempt on fourth down gave Wesleyan (1-0) the ball on the Colby 2-yard line. Two plays later, Cardinals running back Charlie McPhee plunged into the end zone from a yard out. An extra point by Andrew Iferenta gave Wesleyan a 7-3 lead.

Colby quarterback Matt Hersch gets up-ended by Wesleyan defensive back Alex Beauchesne during a NESCAC game on Saturday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Alex Beauchesne intercepted a pass from Colby quarterback Matt Hersch on the following drive, and two plays later, Wesleyan quarterback Ashton Scott connected with wide receiver Logan Tomlinson for a 38-yard touchdown pass. The Cardinals entered halftime with a 14-3 lead.

“It’s an easy day for the offense whenever the defense plays the way our defense just did,” said Scott, who finished 7 of 19 passing for 155 yards. “They gave up three points, the other two were on us, something we’ve got to face. But our defense was lights out.”

Wesleyan scored its final touchdown on its second drive in the second half, when quarterback David Estevez connected with wide receiver Thomas Elkhoury for an 84-yard touchdown strike to give the Cardinals a 21-3 lead. A bad Wesleyan snap that went through the end zone for a safety gave the Mules two points for the final 21-5 score.

Estevez was a perfect 2 for 2 passing for 91 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 57 yards on six carries.

Wesleyan head coach Dan Dicenzo was thrilled, not only with the win, but to be back on a football field after a year of no games.

“They deserve it, the players deserve it,” Dicenzo said. “Colby deserves it, Wesleyan deserves it. We’re a smart country, there’s a way to do it safely, and they’re doing it all over the world. These kids deserve it. They’ve done everything right, our kids are getting tested twice a week, they’re wearing masks inside. They’re doing everything just to play. I’m really proud of them.”

Colby last played Wesleyan in the 2019 season opener in Middletown, Connecticut, falling 30-10 to the Cardinals.

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