In a game that served as the final tune-up before the upcoming Little Three games, football (6-0) handled Hamilton 31-6 on Saturday. It was a cold, rainy day with field conditions worsening throughout the day, but the Eph defense dominated. The defense held Hamilton to only 152 total yards and eight first downs while keeping the Continentals scoreless until late into the fourth quarter.
“The field conditions and weather were pretty anti-offense,” Head Coach Dick Farley said. “We got off to a good start with good field position, and it started to snowball on them after that.”
The defense and special teams were also instrumental to the Ephs in their first two touchdowns as the offense struggled to find the endzone. Safety Scott Farley ’03 intercepted Hamilton’s Brandon Holtstag midway through the first quarter and returned it to the Continentals’ 11-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Joe Reardon ’04 found wide receiver Ryan Friend ’03 for an eight-yard touchdown.
Later on in the second quarter after another defensive stand by the Ephs, linebacker Wes Connors ’05 blocked a Hamilton punt in the endzone that defensive end Hugh Green ’03 recovered for a touchdown, giving the Ephs a 14-0 lead. The blocked punt was the second this year for the Ephs and was part of a strong game by Connors, who also recorded the Ephs’ only sack of the day.
While the offense did move the ball with some success in the first days, they were unable to produce any sustained scoring drives. Three different times, the Ephs got inside the Continentals 35-yard line only to be stopped on downs each time without trying a field goal.
“That’s not something we would do every game, but we felt we could take a shot in this game,” Coach Farley said. “The field conditions really controlled that, as there were concerns about the footing.”
The scoring problems that plagued the offense in the first half, however, disappeared in the second. After receiving the second half kickoff, the Ephs marched 65 yards in nine plays, mixing runs by running back Tim Crawley ’05 and receptions by Friend. Crawley capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 21-0.
Getting the ball right back after cornerback Ian McCormick ’03 intercepted a Holtstag pass, the offense moved to the Continentals’ 15-yard line before the drive stalled out. Farley connected on a 32-yard field goal into the wind to make the score 24-0.
After another three-and-out stand by the defense, the offense put the game out of reach. Starting with great field position at their own 47-yard line, Reardon hit the reliable Friend with two more receptions along with tight end Mike Rabiner ’03 to get the ball inside the 10-yard line.
From there, Reardon again found Friend for his second touchdown of the game and sixth of the year. The touchdown made the score 31-0 and capped a dominating span where the offense scored 17 points while the defense did not yield a first down.
With the game firmly secure, Farley pulled many of his starters. Playing against the second team defense, Hamilton scored a late touchdown on a Holtstag run which only prevented the Ephs from pitching their second shutout of the season.
With the win, the Ephs remained undefeated and stayed atop the NESCAC standings.
“There was no shock with this game,” Coach Farley said. “It was a game we knew we’d have to get through, and the kids did that. Two months ago, if you said we’d be 6-0 at this point, I would have been happy. It might not have happened the way I wanted to, but the kids have done what they had to do.”
The Ephs will now prepare for the Little Three games against Wesleyan and Amherst, with Wesleyan coming to Weston Field on Saturday as part of Homecoming weekend.
The Cardinals are enjoying a strong season with a 5-1 record, which includes a 14-13 win over Amherst and now have a chance to clinch the Little Three football title for the first time since 1970.
“They have very good balance,” Coach Farley said in his praise of the Cardinals squad. “They are able to run and pass the ball pretty well. They have two good running backs [Young Douglas and Pat Curran] that they interchange, and their quarterback, [Brennan] Carney, is pretty dang good. It’s a very strong club. They will be fired up, because they have a chance to win their first Little Three title in 32 years, but I think our kids are up to the task.”
Kickoff for the Wesleyan game is 1 p.m. at Weston Field.