Bates finds triumph in a tough season

After the Bates College football team secured its first winning season since 1981 with a 47-33 victory against Hamilton in its final game, senior Joe Dell’Erario  reflected on the accomplishment.

“I just thought that we finally did it,” said the inside linebacker, a three-sport athlete and captain of the football and hockey teams at Weston High.

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“We were winners. It was the perfect way to go out. We only had one captain, and he was not on the defensive side, so I tried to fire up the defense and play my part,’’ Dell’Erario said after the Nov. 10 home win.

“This season went by so quickly and I’m missing it already.’’

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Dell’Erario had his finest season for the Bobcats, who finished 5-3 after winning their last three games.

Dell’Erario recorded 35 tackles, a half sack, two interceptions (including a 60-yard touchdown return against Tufts in the second game of the season), three pass breakups, and a fumble recovery.

“Joe has been a very talented player for us for four years, but he really came into his own this year. His athleticism allowed him to make a number of game-changing plays for us,’’ said Bates coach Mark Harriman.

His seven tackles and game-breaking TD during the team’s 31-23 win against the Jumbos in Medford resulted in Dell’Erario’s being named the New England Small College Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week.

However, Dell’Erario and his teammates had more than the program’s long history of losing seasons to overcome.

The day before the season’s third game, freshman Troy Pappas, a wide receiver from Eliot, Maine, died from injuries suffered six days earlier in a stairwell fall.

When Bates took the field against Williams for its Parents Day game,  the team’s captain, Patrick George, held up Pappas’ No. 8 jersey, which each player touched. Bates players wore decals with No. 8 and the initials “TP’’ on their helmets the remainder of the season.

“We became brothers on that day. There was a moment of silence before the game and we went out and played with heart,” Dell’Erario said of the emotionally charged, 33-6 victory over Williams. “Our head coach, Mark Harriman, reached out to us and to the Pappas family in a special way.”

To reach the goal of a winning mark, however, after starting the season 2-3, Bates — which won one game in 2009, two in 2010 and three last year — needed to run the table.

And the Bobcats did, defeating Colby, 31-6, and Bowdoin, 14-6, to capture the annual competition for bragging rights among the three Maine schools. They then finished off Hamilton.

“No one was thinking about needing to win our last three,” said Dell’Erario, who recorded a career-best 13 tackles Oct. 23 in a 38-23 loss against NESCAC power Middlebury. “We just thought what we had to do week to week. Our defensive coordinator came up with great game plans, and he put us all in the perfect position to succeed.’’

Dell’Erario, a goalie on the Weston High hockey team and a third baseman on the diamond, hails from an athletic family.

His father, John Dell’Erario, was on the football and track teams at Needham High and for Williams College, and an uncle, Nick, also a Needham High grad, was an All-American baseball player at Bates.

“My uncle was definitely happy to see me come here,’’ said Dell’Erario, whose older brother, Brian, was a hockey teammate at Weston High, and whose younger brother, Tom , played safety and wide receiver, and returned kicks for the Wildcats’ football team this fall as a sophomore.

Dell’Erario said his football coach at Weston High, Bob Desaulniers , who was also his guidance counselor, was a positive influence in his development as a player and as a person.

“Coach D did everything the right way,’’ said Dell’Erario, a Dual County League All-Star his senior year, “and our teams definitely turned the program around.’’

Dell’Erario, who plays goalie for the Bates club hockey team, backstopped Weston’s team into the MIAA tournament as a sophomore. His brother was a senior center on the squad.

Other Bates players with local connections included senior offensive lineman Matt Antonellis  (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional); sophomore linebacker and special-teams player Pat Gilligan  (Acton-Boxborough Regional), who had 10 tackles in eight games; and freshman defensive back Alex Opiela (Medfield High), who had a pair of tackles in seven games.

Here and there

Sudbury’s Simon Shnapir and figure-skating partner Marissa Castelli  of Cranston, R.I., won their first international gold medal at the recent Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria. They are coached at the Skating Club of Boston by Bobby Martin , Mark MitchellPeter Johansson, and Carrie Wall. Shnapir, who is competing this weekend with Castelli at the NHK Trophy Grand Prix series in Sendai, Japan, was born in Moscow. He emigrated in 1989 with his family and took his first lessons through the Colonial Skating Club in Boxborough, and attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High and Emerson College. . .  Brown University senior wideout Jonah Fay  of Brookline (Noble & Greenough) made six catches for 101 yards — one a 29-yard touchdown — in his final college game last Saturday. Fay’s career day helped Brown (7-3, 4-3 Ivy League) defeat Columbia, 22-6. Fay, who earned Independent School League all-star honors at Nobles, ranked first among Brown receivers with 14.9 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns; was second with 497 receiving yards; and third with 35 catches. He also returned 11 punts for 80 yards. . . . Bentley University men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Mary Kay Samko of Arlington recorded her 300th dual-meet win in 17 seasons when the Falcons’ women topped UMass Dartmouth, 126-92, at the Dana Center pool last weekend. No. 301 came minutes later, when the men’s team completed a sweep of the Corsairs, 132-73.