The football team rallied back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat arch-rival Amherst 23-30 in overtime on Saturday. Tyler Shea ’04 put the finishing touch on the game with a one-yard touchdown on the team’s first possession in the extra period. Shea’s run was set up by a 22-yard completion from QB Joe Reardon ’04 to WR Ryan Friend ’03 that got Williams down to the Amherst four-yard line.
“It was like a movie script,” said captain James Kingsley ’02, who lead the team with 10 tackles on the day. “It couldn’t have been written any better. It’s a great way to wind up my four years of playing football here.”
The win secured the Ephmen’s fifth perfect season along with the NESCAC and Little III titles. It also marked the seventh time that Williams has denied Amherst a perfect season, and the three touchdowns scored by the Ephs prevented Amherst from setting the NESCAC defensive scoring record.
The Ephs struck first in the battle of unbeaten teams midway through the first quarter. Starting on their own 25-yard line, Reardon completed all five of his passes, the big one being a 27-yard completion to Friend to get to the Lord Jeffs’ 11. From there, three Tyler Shea rushes got the Ephs into the endzone. Scott Farley’s extra point gave Williams a 7-0 lead.
The Lord Jeffs responded late in the first quarter. On a third and seven from their own 43, Amherst quarterback Marsh Moseley snuck a pass through CB Johnny Kelly ’02 to Derrell Wright, who bolted down the sidelines before being tackled at the Williams one. On the next play, Moseley dove behind center into the endzone to the tie the game at seven.
Amherst took the lead in the second quarter on a David Bodner 39-yard field goal, finishing off a 10 play, 72-yard drive in which the Lord Jeffs started at their own six. Holding the lead, the stingy Amherst defense shut down the Ephs’ offense during the second quarter. The Lord Jeffs defense stopped the Ephs on several crucial third downs, and, as a result, the Ephs were only able to gain one first down and never entered Amherst territory in the quarter.
Amherst added to its lead with less than five minutes left in the half on a Fletcher Ladd 18-yard touchdown run. Starting in Williams territory, the Lord Jeffs went to the ground game. Runs by tailbacks Okey Ugwonali and Fletcher Ladd got the Lord Jeffs to the Williams’ 18, where Ladd sprinted in for the score. The Bodner extra point made the lead 17-7, a lead the Lord Jeffs took into the half.
Facing a 10-point deficit at the start of the second half, the defense rose to the occasion. On the third play on the second half, FS Scott Farley ’03 intercepted a Moseley pass and ran it back to the Amherst 34.
“That play was huge,” said Kingsley. “At halftime, we told the offense we were done giving up points and that we could get them the ball in good position, and Scott’s interception was a big part of that.”
The Ephs were able to get to the Amherst four-yard line, but the Lord Jeff defense held from there and the Ephs settled for a 20-yard Scott Farley field goal, which cut the lead to 17-10.
Later in the quarter, the Ephs drove down the field, getting to the Lord Jeffs’ nine-yard line. Again, though, the Lord Jeffs held strong, but this time the Farley field goal sailed wide left, keeping the score a 17-10.
Early in the fourth, the defense came through with a crucial turnover. After a Jarod Kidd ’02 punt pinned the Amherst back on its own 10, LB Graham Goldwasser ’04 intercepted a Moseley pass at the Amherst 21. Four plays later, TB Mike Hackett ’04 raced around the right side and into the endzone. Farley’s extra point tied the game at 17-17 with 10:23 left in regulation.
From there, each offense had its chances to take their lead, but could not convert. After the Lord Jeff defense held Williams without a first down, the Lord Jeffs got the ball at the Williams 48 with 1:33 to go. On the first play, Moseley dropped back and was stripped by defensive lineman Robert Sherwood ’03, who recovered the ball at the Amherst 44. Suddenly, Williams had the chance to the win the game. However, the Lord Jeff pass defense came through, and Reardon was interception by Paul Miceli at the Williams 27 with 42 seconds remaining. Amherst then ran the clock out to send the game into overtime. In overtime, the Ephs won the toss and chose to defend first. Following the college football system, the Lord Jeffs started at the Williams 25; both teams would have a chance to score from the 25 until one team won. A Ladd run got the Lord Jeffs a first down and to the Williams nine, but the Ephs defense denied both Ladd and Ugwonali, and Amherst settled for a 20-yard Bodner field goal to take a 20-17 lead.
Knowing that a touchdown would win the game, the Eph offense went to work. After an incompletion, Reardon floated a pass for Friend in the right corner on the field. Friend out-leapt the Amherst defender and came down with the pass at the four. On the next play, Shea ran three yards and was stopped inside the one.
“Everyone in the huddle was saying we’re going in and we’re going to win,” said Shea. “When Joe [Reardon] called the play I knew I had to score. The O-line was awesome on the play. I was not going to be denied, that’s for sure. I could not have dreamed up a better finish.”
The win marked the finish of a remarkable season for the Ephs. Entering the year the team was an underdog after last year’s 5-3 record. They had an unsettled situation at quarterback and were facing the loss of key players on offense.
They now end the 2001 season with a perfect record, with Reardon as the most efficient passer in the NESCAC and one of the greatest wins in Williams-Amherst history.