Riding a record-setting performance by wide receiver Ryan Friend ’03 and a three-touchdown third quarter, football (1-0) rolled over the Bowdoin Polar Bears (0-1) 38-7 at home on Saturday to win its season and home opener.
While the Eph defense held the Bears to only seven points, the star of the game was clearly Friend, who picked up right where he left off last year.
His 13 receptions set a new single-game school record, and his performance is more impressive considering he did not play much of the second half after the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.
Head Coach Dick Farley, though, did not seem surprised by his star receiver’s performance. “He’s been doing this for three years,” Farley said. “Ryan’s got great hands and a good head, and he uses them well. I think the best way to describe him is he’s dependable. He’s not going to beat me in a foot race, but he knows the game well.”
The Eph defense also played well, which was a particularly good sign given the adverse circumstances the team played under in the opener.
With tri-captain defensive end Mark Rosenthal ’03, middle linebacker Will Gilyard ’03 and outside linebacker Graham Goldwasser ’04 all out with injury, the Ephs were forced to play without three key starters on a defense already weakened by the graduation of six starters from last season.
The coaching staff adjusted by starting the game with five defensive linemen to utilize their depth on the line while trying to protect their young linebacking unit. The injuries might mean increased time for defensive ends Andrew Mauer ’04 and Hugh Green ’04, while inexperienced linebackers Dicken Counts ’05, Evan Dunn ’05 and Dan Doyle ’04 along with projected starter Wes Connors ’05 filled in behind them.
While the defense was not overwhelming, they held the Bears to only 12 first downs and 210 total yards.
“Overall, I was pleased with the effort,” Farley said. “We had linebackers starting today who were strong safeties last year, so it was a baptism by fire. They are inexperienced, but I think they did a representative job today.”
The Ephs started the season by making Bowdoin go three-and-out after Farley blasted the kickoff through the end-zone. On their first offensive possession, the Ephs marched down to Bowdoin’s 6-yard line, led by three catches by Friend off feeds from quarterback Joe Reardon ’04.
On third-and-goal from the six, Reardon threw a screen pass to tailback Mike Hackett ’04, who had no blockers and was tackled for a loss of seven yards, forcing the Ephs to settle for a field goal.
While the defense held the Bears in check for the first quarter, the Ephs could not generate anything offensively until the start of the second quarter.
Following a pattern set last season, backup quarterback Jake Moore ’04 started the second quarter under center. With great field position, Moore led the team down to the Polar Bear five, where he connected with Friend, who did a impressive job of both catching the ball over the Bowdoin cornerback and keeping one foot in bounds for the Ephs’ first touchdown.
“We needed a little momentum boost,” said Moore. “There was great play-calling, everybody stepped up, the running backs ran a little harder, and we kind of got the team moving a little bit.”
Down 10-0, the Polar Bears tried to stage a comeback, marching 71 yards down the field before scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Hardison to Chris Stratton, making it a 10-7 game.
The Ephs immediately responded. With Reardon back in the game, the offense also moved 71 yards and scored on a beautiful Reardon-to-Friend fade pattern in the back corner of the end zone.
The Ephs made one more drive at the end of the half, getting to the Polar Bears’ 9-yard line, but Farley’s 26-yard field goal sailed just left, leaving the score at 17-7 at the half.
After the defense held the Bears to another three-and-out to start the second half, the Eph offense quickly went to work.
On a third-and-9 from the Bowdoin 36, Reardon found running back Tim Crawley ’05 out of the backfield, who sped past the Bowdoin defenders who had been drawn inside, and raced down the sideline for a 36-yard touchdown.
On their next possession, the Ephs once again cruised down the field. Using two catches by cornerback Johnny Kelly ’03, who entered the game at wide receiver after Friend left with leg cramps, the Ephs reached the 5-yard line, where running back Mike Hackett ’04 ran in untouched for the touchdown.
The Ephs put the game firmly out of reach with the next possession. Starting with great field position once again, the Ephs used several runs by Crawley to get down to the Bowdoin three-yard line, where massive fullback Tyler Shea ’04 plowed in, capping the day’s scoring at 38-7.
Overall, the offensive unit had an impressive debut. Reardon threw the ball very well, completing 20 of 25 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns.
“The line blocked really well today,” said Reardon. “I had all day to throw the ball, and the success in the passing game is a credit to them.”
Hackett finished with 81 yards on the ground, while his backup Crawley looked impressive, especially on his 36-yard touchdown catch. It was a satisfying performance for a unit that struggled in last week’s scrimmage against Colby.
“This game was really important,” Friend said. “We needed to establish our offense after last week. We definitely need to improve, but this is a good start.”
The Ephs will now prepare for the Trinity Bantams, who come to Weston Field next week. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.
The Ephs took it to the Bantams last year, trouncing them by a final score of 31-10. Reardon was the star of that game, going 25-35 on the afternoon for 317 yards and four touchdowns.
Trinity came away with a victory in its first contest this season, however, with a 17-10 victory over Colby. Despite the auspicious start for the Bantams, a Williams triumph should be well within reach.