Your Friendly Neighborhood Sports Columnist: Hold Your Heads High

Standing in line at Antonio’s Pizza in Amherst, Mass. was quite an experience for me on Saturday morning. For starters, I never thought I would see a person request a broccoli, mushroom, peppers and basil pizza, but I thank Sumant Bhat for opening my eyes to the world of vegetarian pizza toppings. Moreover, while I was deciding between more traditional toppings such as sausage and pepperoni, I started thinking about how easy it was going to be to write the column this week. Williams would beat Amherst and I would go off on just how perfect 16-0 is. However, as all of you know (with the exception of John Fitzgerald) Williams was upset by our rivals, the Amherst Lord Jeffs, which ended a winning streak of 15 straight games in football. More importantly, it ended the careers of arguably the best class in Williams College football history.

On the way home from Amherst, my tall vegetarian friend and I sat in silence as if we couldn’t believe what happened. The truth is we couldn’t! If anyone had told me while I was planning out the paragraphs to this column in Antonio’s that Williams would give up 45 points in a single game I would just laugh. Furthermore, if someone had told me that I would watch one of my best friends and roommate of three years [Johnny Kelly ’03] sit on the sideline for practically the entire second half because in the final football game of his life he broke his leg, I wouldn’t even know how to react. Watching him get up numerous times and hobble up and down the sideline trying to convince himself, his leg and Doc Parkinson that he was okay, that he could go back out there and help his team, made me realize how special Williams is in general and just how special this football team was for the last two seasons. Even though he couldn’t get back out on the field, J.K expressed the passion that has been shared by each and every one of his teammates as well as the coaching staff over their last 16 games. During the last couple of years you guys gave your fans so many exciting memories, and I thought it only appropriate to give you my top five.

Number 5 (Oct. 19, 2002) – With little time remaining and trailing by one point on the road against Tufts, Graham Goldwasser ’04 stepped up and made a play that will be forever remembered as one of the most incredible individual efforts for Williams College football. When the Tufts offense came to the line of scrimmage “Goldy” read the play and decided to ignore all of his defensive responsibilities and blitzed. As the quarterback dropped back to hand the ball off to the tailback they were met by old number two – the result of the play was a safety and Williams took a one-point lead. Williams would go on to win the game by eight points, but the difference was Goldy’s safety.

Number 4 (Sept. 22, 2001) – Williams opens the 2001 season with a 28-13 victory over Colby. The Ephs were coming off a disappointing 5-3 season the year before in which they lost their opening game to the White Mules. This win avenged the Colby loss from the year before and was the victory that started the 15-game winning streak.

Number 3 (Oct. 12, 2002) – Down two scores to Middlebury in the fourth quarter, the Ephs needed to get in the end zone fast. The game had another unexpected twist in that the clock on the scoreboard stopped working. So throughout the fourth quarter none of the fans and many of the players didn’t know how much time was left in the game. The fourth quarter went on for what seemed like an eternity, but the Ephs pulled out a victory on two scoring drives led by Joe Reardon ’04. Williams sealed the deal with an interception after Middlebury had advanced the ball into the red zone with under a minute left.

Number 2 (Nov. 10, 2001) – This moment will never be forgotten by anyone who was at the game. After Amherst took a three point lead in overtime and Williams was facing a third down and long it looked as if Williams was in real trouble, but just as he always seems to do Ryan Friend ’03 came to the rescue making an impossible catch at a very improbable time. Joe Reardon threw Friend a pass in the only place that he could and Ryan made a miraculous one-handed reception setting up a first and goal. Two plays later, Tyler Shea ’04 ran the ball past the goal line giving Williams a come-from-behind overtime victory at Weston Field.

Number 1 (Nov. 5, 2002) – The number one memory is none other than the embarrassing shellacking you guys delivered to Wesleyan on Homecoming two weekends ago. The win sealed a second straight NESCAC title and the third in four years. This year’s 7-1 record brought the class of 2003’s win-loss record to an unbelievable 27-5, which is an amazing .843 winning percentage. You guys lost to Amherst, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. You made a college and an entire community proud to call you our football team for the last four years and you took a program to near immortality for the last two. So to the entire team and specifically Sica, Vern, Will, JayPo, Scott, Big Daddy, G, Sherwood, Gilyard, Justin, Rosey, Rabs, Ian, Sandser, Ryan and Johnny, thanks fellas. You guys provided the rest of us with a reason to hold kegs and eggs at 9 a.m. in the morning, but more importantly, you made Saturdays in the fall the best days of the year – for that we all thank you and don’t think for one second that you guys will not be missed on that field next year.