No contest; Eph football rules supreme

Pure domination. That is all that can describe the Williams College football team’s 57-19 destruction of Little Three rival Wesleyan on Homecoming last Saturday. Even though Wesleyan put up some impressive stats on offense, the Williams defense made all of the big plays, and the Williams offense hit on all cylinders. The defense compensated for allowing a season high 457 yards of total offense by making crucial third and fourth down stops.

The Eph offensive performance, which included some of the greatest individual plays of the season, more than contributed to the annihilation of the Cardinals by posting a combined 517 yards of passing and rushing. The Ephs’ combination of scoring prowess and defensive fortitude made for a memorable Homecoming performance in front of 8,318 fans. The win also puts the team only one win from their third undefeated campaign of the 90’s.

Right from the start, the Ephs showed Wesleyan that they came to play. The initial Williams drive of the game lasted only seven plays and 1:58, but it covered 70 yards for a touchdown and set the tone for the game.

Quarterback Sean Keenan ’00 opened up the contest with a quick 12 yard strike to senior receiver Matt Sigrist. Next, bruising running back Fred Storz ’01 ripped a 20 yard run to the Wesleyan 38 yard line. A 24 yard Keenan-to-Sigrist connection on third down then put Williams at the doorstep of the end zone. Two more Storz carries capped the drive, the final one from two yards out resulting in the Ephs’ first touchdown.

When the Cardinals finally gained possession, they began a solid drive up the field by quarterback Jake Fay and back Tom Themistocles. Wesleyan showed offensive balance comparable to that of Williams and appeared to be headed for a quick score of their own. However, a stingy Williams defense, which had given up a total of only 41 points on the year, was not ready to concede points very easily. The Williams defense has allowed the fewest points per game of any team in all of NCAA Division III. Though Wesleyan converted its first attempt on third and long, Williams Matt Schreck ’99 sacked Fay for a 12 yard loss on a subsequent third down attempt. On fourth down, Fay threw incomplete to Wesleyan’s big play receiver Matt Perceval.

With the momentum of a defensive stop on their side, the Ephs’ next two possessions signaled what was to come the rest of the afternoon. First, Storz rumbled into the end zone from a yard out, consummating another quick drive highlighted by a 39 yard pass from Keenan to tight end Mike Cleary ’99.

After another defensive hold inside the 20 yard line, the Ephs showed their deep passing ability, as Keenan threw a brilliant 63 yard touchdown bomb to Sigrist, who made an incredible over-the-shoulder catch. With Bob Kaufman’s ’01 extra point, the score stood 21-0.

Wesleyan finally notched a score with 6:45 left in the second quarter on a controversial play. Themistocles, about to be tackled, pitched the ball back to Fay who easily marched in for a touchdown. Though it seemed as though Themistocles was ruled down, the play stood up and Wesleyan put seven points on the board.

Williams was unfazed by the Wesleyan strike, however, and promptly scored 14 more points. Cleary starred on the next drive, making a 33 yard grab on the first play and then catching a Keenan toss over the middle for eight more yards and his first touchdown of the season. The series was precipitated by a 39 yard kickoff return by Casey Flavin ’00. Soon after, the Eph defense got into the scoring, as first-year Ben Sands blocked Wesleyan’s punt and Louis Moll ’01 picked it up and ran it in for a score. The tally upped the Eph’s lead to 35-7. A late Wesleyan score left the scoreboard showing Williams up 35-13 at halftime.

In the second half, the Ephs continued to show why they are alone atop the NESCAC standings. Though Fay hooked up with Perceval for a score in under two minutes, Williams answered in a hurry. With Storz tearing it up on the ground and Keenan finding both Sigrist and Andy Jones ’00 for big catches, the Ephs looked like they would march in for another relatively uncontested score.

However, when Wesleyan forced a fourth down, it took Williams a bit of deception to keep the drive from ending. Keenan lined up as if to punt, and the Wesleyan special teams players were totally unaware. When Keenan received the ball, he immediately spotted Jones breaking to his left and threw him an easy 27 yard completion. Sitting inside the 20 yard line, Keenan finally put up a high lob pass deep in the corner of the end zone that Sigrist ran under for a marvelous touchdown grab. This score pretty much sealed the game for the Ephs. A late 36 yard field goal by Colin Vataha ’01 and a pair of TD runs by seniors Mike McAdam and Mike Rapport made the final score Williams 57, Wesleyan 19.

In the process of thrashing the Cardinals, several Ephmen set individual all-time records. Sigrist, who ended the day with 175 yards receiving on nine catches, set the record for career receiving yards at Williams with 1,803 total yards. Storz, who ended with 145 yards on the ground, set the Williams single-season record for points scored. His two touchdown performance gives him 92 points on the year. Finally, Keenan set the record for passing yards in a season with his 311 yard afternoon. He has 1,570 yards through the air on the year.

Notable defenders on the afternoon were Moll, Schreck, Chris Hale ’00, Jim Thomas ’99, John Lewis ’99 and Peter Hajjar ’99, who snatched the only interception from Fay. Mike Hickey ’00 also gave crucial support as a nickel defensive back, often shadowing Perceval.

The offensive line was terrific as well, allowing no sacks of Keenan and blocking for 207 yards rushing.

On the game, team tri-captain Sigrist said, “we are all very excited. We put it together and beat a very formidable and fired up opponent.” Cornerback John Berry ’00, another tri-captain, was happy about the Wesleyan win because he felt “the offense was nearly technically perfect and the defense held a team that averaged 36 points coming into the game to only 19.”

Both of the captains however, noted that the team must be wary of any sort of letdown going into the final game against Amherst. Sigrist acknowledges that “there will be a natural letdown after such a big game, but we know that another strong opponent is coming up. Even though Amherst is only 5-2, they’ll be playing their best because they want to keep us from going undefeated.” Berry adds that the victory over Wesleyan gives the team a measure of revenge but sees that Amherst seeks the same revenge. “It was great to beat Wesleyan after the loss last year, and we are 7/8 of the way to reaching our preseason goal of going undefeated. However, the season’s not over until the final whistle. We will prepare even harder than Wesleyan so that we can reach the level we haven’t reached for four years.”

Entering the 113th playing of the “Biggest Little Game in America” this weekend at Amherst with a 7-0 record for the first time since 1995, when the two sides tied at 0. The last undefeated, untied Williams team was the 1994 squad. The Lord Jeffs sit at 5-2 on the year and will be primed to ruin Williams’ run at a perfect season, as the Ephs did to Amherst last year, beating the Jeffs at Weston Field 48-46. Game time is 12:00 noon on Saturday, and the game will also be broadcast live on NESN.