Jeffs batter Bantams, come up short

The loss dropped Amherst to 5-2 overall and essentially debarred them from the prospect of winning the conference. But with a tilt against archrival Williams College this Saturday, the Little Three Championship can be secured with a win against the Ephs. This week’s loss may actually be the chip the Jeffs carry on their shoulder when they trudge into forsaken Williamstown, Mass. Head Coach E.J. Mills relishes the opportunity to down Williams on their own field. “We are cranked up for a Little Three Championship,” he said.

Saturday’s game was a painfully slow one, with Trinity grinding out drive after drive on the ground and nearly forcing Amherst into submission. Trinity possessed the ball for 15 minutes longer than Amherst and-considering that the Bantams are a run-heavy team-that statistic spells certain doom for any opponent. Despite flashes of Jeff resurgence, Trinity slowly and monotonously whittled away at Amherst’s resolve.

In the first quarter the Jeff offense was productive and resilient; after every Trinity drive the Jeffs responded with a strong offensive push of their own. Early in the opening quarter, with Amherst down 7-0, Jeff quarterback Nick Kehoe ’07 connected with receiver Justin Macione ’07 for a 58-yard touchdown pass, giving Amherst six points. But the extra point was blocked and returned by Trinity for two points, bringing the Bantams’ tally to nine. Yet the Amherst offense responded convincingly two drives later when déjà vu hit the Bantams up for another six as Kehoe again connected with Macione, this time for a 43-yard touchdown pass. The second Jeff extra point was tallied without issue.

Even though Trinity has the best defense in the conference, allowing the fewest points per game in the NESCAC, Amherst was able to effectively move the ball. Kehoe had an amazing day, completing 22 of 43 passes. His favorite targets were slippery wideout speedsters such as Mark Hannon ’07, Mike Myers ’08 and Macione, who garnered 93, 100 and 111 yards receiving, respectively. Overall, Amherst logged 323 yards of passing offense, impressive for a team that relies so heavily on the run. Clearly, Amherst made a strategic decision not to place an emphasis on running the ball against the Bantams’ dominant defensive line. Nevertheless, the Amherst offense showed a skillful plasticity in their ability to adapt their offensive game plan and attack the weaknesses of the opposing defense.

Trinity scored again in the second quarter, creating a 16-13 lead. After a pair of missed field goal attempts by offensive linebacker Justin Roemer ’06, it was only the rock solid play of the Amherst defense that kept the Jeffs in the game.

Forcing Trinity to beat them in the air was a necessity for the Jeff defense. But Trinity’s ability to move the ball down the field and eat up significant gobbets of time from the clock was what eventually wore down the Jeff defense. Trinity’s late scores in the game-with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter and 14:10 in the fourth-provided the Bantams with an insurmountable advantage.

Despite the 30 points amassed by Trinity, there were many positives on the defensive side of the ball. The Amherst secondary played very well, limiting Trinity to 156 yards of passing. Early in the first quarter, Amherst defensive back Mike Salerno ’07 intercepted a Trinity pass and returned it 50 yards to the Bantam one-yard line. Also, the defense pursued as a unit on Saturday, and the relentlessness was evidenced by the tackling productivity of many players. Roemer and inside linebacker Jake Spadafora ’08 combined for 30 tackles, and inside linebacker Greg Muecke ’07 and defensive lineman L.J. Spinnato ’06 recorded a total of 22 combined tackles. Offensive linebacker Kelvin Coker ’06, defensive lineman Brendan McKee ’07 and defensive lineman Dan Kovolisky ’06 registered three tackles-for-losses on the day and set Trinity back a total of 10 yards. While watching the game, one could tell what a hard-hitting contest it was from the percussive reverberations that echoed up from the field into the stands. This memorably occurred when Roemer delivered a bone-crunching, fumble-inducing hit on a Trinity running back.

Heading to Williamstown to take on the bovine Ephs will be no easy task for the Jeffs as the teams appear evenly matched on paper: Williams is also 5-2. Still, Amherst has a slight statistical advantage in every important category.

Despite being a superior team statistically, the Jeffs will have to work against history. “An Amherst team hasn’t won up there since ’85; this is a big challenge,” admitted Mills. But it looks like this Jeff squad has a good shot at cranking it up against the Ephs.