Football Eyes Championship in Return to NESCAC Play

Returning to the field after nearly two years without in-game action, Amherst football players believe their efforts to improve team culture will aid their pursuit of a NESCAC championship.

Football Eyes Championship in Return to NESCAC Play
Photo courtesy of Clay Zachery '23

In just a few short weeks, the college’s football team will begin their season for the first time in almost two years. Their contest at Bates on Sept. 18 will be their first game since Nov. 9, 2019, when they finished their 4-5 season against Williams College.

The Mammoths will be looking to both seasoned veterans and new faces to be key factors on the field this fall. With this mix of youth and experience, the team is confident in their ability to capitalize on their opportunities this season.

Offensive lineman Carsen Webb ’24 emphasized this goal, saying, “We are taking it one game at a time … but in the long run, we really are working for nothing less than a NESCAC championship.” Defensive lineman Angelo Fodera ’24 echoed this sentiment: “That has been a common goal for everyone on the team, to win a championship.”

Since arriving on campus on Aug. 24, the team’s preseason days have been long, filled up by film sessions, meetings and hard practices every day. Still, the team has found the time and energy to enjoy their first season of football since the beginning of the pandemic.

When asked about how eager the team is to finally compete again, outside linebacker Clay Zachery ’23 responded with excitement. “The team has a lot of guys who are back with a lot of hunger. ... [We are] excited to get back on the field,” he said.

Especially for the team’s newer players, preseason has been an opportunity to build connections and return to sport. “[It’s] amazing to have the opportunity to play the sport that I love after a year and a half of uncertainty.” said defensive back Price Warfield ’24. “Even more than that, it’s great to be able to meet the rest of the team and build connections and make each other better as people and as players.”

However, Covid has had its impact on the team and its players. With some of the team’s main contributors taking gap semesters last year to play another season, nerves abound regarding getting back to football and in-person classes alike. However, the team has faced these challenges together, with Fodera saying that he “genuinely [doesn’t] know anybody that doesn’t get along with one another,” something that bodes well for the team as they confront the adversity Covid has created, and reaching their goal of winning a NESCAC championship.  

Off the field, the team has started a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program, with meetings beginning this summer and extending into the fall. Wide receiver Bryce Lauletta ’22 said, “The team is improving every day on the field, but we are also trying to better ourselves and our culture off the field by … leaning into our new team DEI reps [Jack Elvekrog ’23, Carson Ochenshirt ’23, Clay Zachary ’23 and Tariq Muhammad ’24], having more frequent “Bay Discussions” about DEI topics and concerns, and more.” These “Bay Discussions'' are more open-ended forums to discuss current events and any concerns that the players would want to address or speak about in smaller groups. Since the subject matter is often sensitive, team members are frequently asked to take a look at educational resources, like articles or documentaries like “13th,” in advance of the meetings. These conversations have allowed the players to grow closer, and helped to shape the team culture that will hopefully aid them in achieving their championship aspirations.
While the college faces obstacles of the new Delta variant, the Amherst community is starting to embrace a sense of normalcy, something that has allowed the football team to compete this year. But rest assured, if their preseason is any indication, they won’t be letting the moment pass them by. Expect big things from the team this year.