VICTORY! Late TD drive lifts Ephs over Jeffs

For more than 53 minutes of football Saturday in the 114th playing of “The Biggest Little Game in America,” Williams fans waited for the Ephs’ high-powered offense to put points on the board. And for 53 minutes the fans sat virtually silent as the stingy Amherst defense stymied the Ephmen drive after drive. In a game dominated by defense and turnovers, Williams’ final surge with under seven minutes to go in the game made the difference as the Ephs came from behind to win 10-7. Amherst has not won since 1986.

As the Ephs stood 88 yards from a go-ahead touchdown, the chances seemed bleak that the crowd would have much to cheer about. On marched quarterback Sean Keenan ’00, tailback Fred Storz ’01 and wide receivers Matt Student ’01 and Andy Jones ’00. What happened in the next five minutes will go down in Williams football history.

Keenan, who had been inconsistent all day and threw five interceptions, remained calm in the pocket and guided his team to three first downs on three completions. Then Keenan went deep for one of the few times in the game. On the other end of the bomb was Student, who had beaten his defender on a go route. Student adjusted as the ball fell and made an over-the-shoulder catch for a 46-yard gain, taking the Ephs to Amherst’s 20-yard-line.

“We’d been running some 10-15 yard out routes earlier, and I faked that and had the option to beat him inside or outside,” Student said about his spectacular reception. “I beat him inside, Sean put the ball up there and I had plenty of time to get under it and make the play.”

Keenan completed his fifth pass in a row on his next throw when he found Jones on a crossing route at the Jeffs’ 10-yard-line. Jones broke a tackle and ran to the one.

The sea of purple and gold, quiet most of the afternoon, finally exploded with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter when Fred Storz ’01 burst into the end zone to put Williams ahead 10-7. Storz got excellent blocking up front and easily went off of the left tackle to score his 13th touchdown of the year.

“Previous to the touchdown, instead of being worried we were frustrated because we had our opportunities and blew them,” offensive guard Wyeth Lynch ’00 said about the Ephs’ final drive. “In the huddle we talked about staying positive and keeping the drive alive. We just came down and got the job done as a team.”

On the subsequent Amherst drive, the Jeffs dropped three consecutive passes. On fourth down, the Eph pass rush hammered Amherst quarterback Peter Honig and forced him to fumble. Linebacker Louis Moll ’01 recovered for Williams and virtually sealed the victory. Keenan finally downed the ball as time expired, and a sea of fans rushed onto the field.

Head Coach Dick Farley continued his dominance over the Lord Jeffs, improving his overall record at Williams to 12-0-1 over Amherst. The victory gave Williams (7-1) a share of the Little Three Championship with Amherst (5-3) and Wesleyan (5-3). Williams has won or shared the Little Three for the past 13 years, last winning it outright in 1998. Williams also won the first ever officially awarded NESCAC football championship.

The game was a defensive struggle as Williams and Amherst entered having given up the two lowest point totals in NESCAC. Physical line play and linebacker blitzes were featured by both squads. Throughout most of the first half, both offenses found it difficult to move the ball, and the game became a fierce battle of field position.

The Ephs struck first in the game. A botched punt snap on fourth-and-long by Amherst gave Williams first and goal from the Amherst five yard line. The Ephs were unable to get in the end zone, but a 20-yard Rob Kaufman ’01 field goal gave Williams a 3-0 lead that held through halftime.

Amherst took the lead in the third quarter on a one-yard TD pass from Peter Honig to Jeff Ryan on fourth-and-goal. Honig ran a bootleg left and found Ryan, a tight end who had slipped off of his block for the reception. The touchdown was set up by a controversial 26-yard halfback option pass from tailback Kevin Kennard to Derrell Wright. Wright and cornerback Dan DiCenzo ’01 both had position for the ball when Wright jumped over DiCenzo’s back for the ball. The two wrestled for the ball in the air, but the referee ruled Wright came down with the ball on the Eph four-yard line.

The Lord Jeffs’ lead held through the third and late into the fourth quarter. Amherst keyed on the Eph passing game, and its blitz seemed effective at disrupting the Ephs’ deep pass attempts. The running game was solid behind a good offensive line surge, but it could not make a decisive play without the passing game support.

That changed with 7:00 on the clock in the final quarter when the Ephs took possession on their own 12-yard line. Finally, everything seemed to come together. With every completion on the drive, the crowd grew more and more excited. After the completions to Student and Jones, everyone on Weston Field knew the ball was going to Storz. And true to form, the rugged fullback and the strong Eph offensive line pushed the Lord Jeffs back across the goal line to score the winning touchdown.

Seen throughout the Northeast on the New England Sports Network and nationally by satellite, the game was just the latest chapter in the long, storied rivalry between these two schools. The dramatic victory brought back memories of the 48-46 victory in 1997 and the 19-13 triumph in 1996 over Amherst. For the seniors, who participated in both of those thrillers, this year’s win is just as memorable.

“On one level, alums and ex-football players always remember their last game the most,” Lynch said. “Despite the problems we had on the field, we hung in there and pulled it out. In our four years, we’ve never lost an Amherst game, and that feels great. On another level, we won’t have to think about this year’s Wesleyan loss with this win.”

“It’s just great to send the seniors out as winners and carry on the tradition of beating Amherst,” Student said. Besides the action on the field, there were many other events taking place around Weston Field. At halftime, Williams was awarded the Sears’ Director’s Cup for Division III. It was the third time in four years that Williams had earned the award for the top overall Division III athletic program.

Before the game, the historic grandstand at Weston was dedicated in the name of retiring Williams athletic director, Dr. Robert Peck. Also before the game, a plaque was placed on the gate in front of Weston honoring the 1989 football team, which achieved the school’s first-ever perfect season.

Defensive end Will O’Brien ’00 etched his name in the record books by sacking Honig five times on the day—one more than the mark set by Ted Rogers in 1991. Other players who had standout games on defense were cornerback Jay Kleberg ’00, linebackers Chris Hale ’00, James Kingsley ’02 and Louis Moll ’01, interior linemen Nick Weiss ’00 and Chris Sweatman ’01 and safeties Dicenzo and Alexi Evriviades ’01.

Big contributors for Amherst were tailbacks Okechukwu Ugwonali, rushing for 57 yards on 13 carries and Kevin Kennard, who rushed for 22 yards and threw the 26-yard pass to Wright. Amherst quarterback Peter Honig went 9-for-26 for 91 yards and was sacked six times. Derrell Wright hauled in seven passes for 98 yards. Brian Daoust and Dan Lalli had big defensive days—both picking off Keenan twice on the day. Williams running back Fred Storz rumbled for 85 yards on the day and scored the game-winning touchdown. Keenan ended the game 15-for-32 for 204 yards and five interceptions. Matt Student caught six passes for 90 yards. Andrew Jones recorded 67 yards receiving on 5 catches.

>Though the football Ephs didn’t match last year’s perfection this fall, they had a very strong season once again, setting school records on both sides of the ball. Keenan broke nearly every passing record in school history, including career completions, passing yards and touchdown passes. Storz also set the all-time Division III rushing record. On defense, the team set the record for fewest yards allowed in a game against Bowdoin, Kingsley set the record for most interceptions in a game with three at Middlebury and O’Brien’s five sacks against Amherst are also an all-time best.