Football falls to Ephs, drops to fifth place in NESCAC

The contest was evenly matched with each team heading into the game with a record of 5-2. Both teams had suffered uncharacteristic losses-Amherst lost its second game to Bowdoin College and Williams to Colby College-while each also fell to seemingly unbeatable Trinity College. Head Coach E.J. Mills believed that Amherst had more than a fighting chance heading into the game. “We were staring a Little Three Championship right in the face,” he said. And so with the picturesque Berkshires looming in the distance, Amherst seemed poised to make history at Weston Field.

Despite the number of Amherst faithful that came flooding into sleepy Williamstown, Mass. to support the team, the 120th meeting between the teams went the Ephs’ way. An Amherst football team has not won at Weston Field since 1985, and Williams has strode confidently atop their home winning streak for 20 years now.

Trying to pinpoint one reason for this Jeff loss is difficult, considering the teams played with remarkable similarity. Both relied on passing the ball more than running; this is a testament to the fine defensive play of both squads throughout the year. Even the time of possession was remarkably similar with Williams only edging Amherst in the game clock by two minutes. One problem early in the season for the Jeffs was the frequency with which the team was penalized. However, on Saturday, Williams committed the majority of the rules infractions and paid the price to the tune of 28 yards. Often times many penalties indicate a lack of concentration, but with both teams playing hard into the fourth quarter there was no lack of intensity and no room for careless error in this contest. Even though the “Biggest Little Game in America” may have ended sourly for Amherst, the Jeffs still accomplished a great deal in 2005.

The Amherst offense rounded out the game with a total of 170 yards passing. Not bad work for a team that is used to muscling opponents with the strength of their ground game. Amherst quarterback Nick Kehoe ’07 threw 19 completions on 35 attempts and remained composed and in control in the pocket at all times. Kehoe’s favorite target during the game was sophomore wide receiver Mike Myers, who hauled in six catches for a total of 80 yards. Another usual suspect in the Amherst offensive passing attack was wide receiver Mark Hannon ’07 who caught five passes for a total of 48 yards. Justin Macione ’07 also contributed to the Amherst passing effort with 20 yards receiving of his own.

The Jeffs were largely flawless on offense as on all 35 attempts Kehoe avoided interception, and the Amherst offense gave away nothing in turnovers. The Amherst offense was 100 percent successful in the red zone, with three chances to score all converted to touchdowns. The excellent play of the Amherst offensive line, which includes Nathaniel Riccardi ’07, Gavin Weeks ’06, Ryan Smith ’07, Matthew Mescioli ’07 and Daniel Guariglia ’08, gave up only one sack during the game.

Although Amherst did not score a receiving touchdown, Kehoe’s aeronautics were instrumental in setting up Amherst’s ground game. The Amherst rushing attack was excellent and accounted for nearly all of the Jeffs’ points.

One of the strengths of the Amherst offense all year was the ability to effectively combine a running and passing attack into a balanced offensive game plan that kept defenses continually on edge and honest in coverage. The ways in which the passing game has complemented the running game have been significant and important in allowing the Jeffs to attack defenses on all fronts.

Hannon was the hero of the day, scoring all three of Amherst’s touchdowns. Early in the first quarter Hannon completed a three-yard touchdown romp that put Amherst up an uneasy seven points. Justin Roemer ’06 also scored in the first half with a field goal right before half time.

After the intermission, the Amherst offense went relatively silent as Williams scored 17 unanswered points. However, with 11:02 remaining in the game, Hannon scored for the second time with a huge 43-yard touchdown run. Hannon capped the Amherst point tally at 23 with a two-yard touchdown stroll with 3:03 left in the game, but it was too little, too late. Ngai Otieno ’06, as was the case all year, ran well and led the Jeffs with an indispensable 53 yards. Will Beeson ’07, Chris Gillyard ’08 and Kehoe also contributed to the rushing attack to bring the total yards gained to 123. The offensive effort against Williams was consistent with the success that the offense has had all year: running the ball with consistency and force to keep opposing offenses off the field and passing the ball to complement the running game.

Uncharacteristically, the Jeff defense allowed the Eph offense 209 yards on the ground. The play of defensive linemen Brendan McKee ’07, L.J. Spinnato ’06 and Dan Kovolisky ’06, which had been stellar all year, could not reign in the stampeding Ephs’ rushing game.

Williams scored early with a field goal in the first quarter and their offensive production continued with 10 points scored in the first half to match the Jeff total.

The linebacking corps of Greg Muecke ’07, Jake Spadafora ’08, Roemer and Kelvin Coker ’06 did its best to limit the Williams’ ground attack all game and combined for over 20 tackles. The Williams offense fumbled the ball once, turned the ball over once on downs and one of quarterback Pat Lucey’s passes was intercepted in the fourth quarter by defensive back Mike Salerno ’07. But despite three turnovers, the Williams offense was still able to move the ball against the Amherst defense.

In the air, Williams put on quite a show. The Ephs had a total of 288 yards passing, including two touchdown passes by quarterback Jim O’Leary. Oddly enough, Williams rotated two quarterbacks, which has been a staple for the Eph’s offensive attack and rhythm this season. Considering that Williams threw the ball a total of 36 times, the Amherst secondary played well. When a team throws the ball that much it is inevitable that it is going to gain some yardage, no matter how good the opposing team is.

Leading the secondary was team tri-captain Nick Zeiler ’06 who racked up six tackles and one forced fumble. Salerno also had a very productive game and led the Amherst defense with a total of seven tackles. Chris Mottau ’08 and Rob Grammer ’08 also played well against Williams and contributed to the effort of the secondary with over six tackles between the two of them. As usual, the play of the Amherst defense was intense and spirited, and nothing got the Jeffs more riled up than when Kovolisky registered a sack in the second quarter. The Amherst defense pursued Williams ball carriers relentlessly and never let up in their aggressive play, even late in the fourth quarter when a Jeff victory was out of reach.

Ending the season with a 5-3 record may not be the ideal accomplishment for Amherst, but it surely was a positive season and one of much achievement. On average, the Amherst offense outscored their opponents by a ratio of nearly 2-1, and the Amherst defense was one of the stingiest in years, allowing only 17 points per game. Besides the accomplishments of the Jeffs on the field, this year’s seniors have left a legacy by which upcoming squads will be measured. Nevertheless, another strong recruiting year and the rise of capable underclassmen promise more exciting and competitive play from a team that is always in contention for the NESCAC title.