For the first time in 16 games, football (1-1) lost on Weston Field. the Ephs fell in a 20-17 decision to the Bantams (2-0) – who, back in October 2004, was the last squad to defeat the men on their home turf. The men led at halftime 17-14, but were unable to come up with a second-half score as the Bantams squeezed out the win.
The Ephs began the day erll, looking like they were ready to avenge last season’s loss to Trinity. Elijah Weeks ’09 returned the opening kickoff 40 yards to put Williams on the Trinity side of the 50. But on the first play from scrimmage the Ephs surrendered possession as quarterback Pat Moffitt ’11 threw a pass into the arms of Bantam defensive back Conor Quinn.
Trinity exploited the turnover by marching 35 yards downfield and threatening to take an early lead. But Trinity also had problems holding onto the ball. Linebacker Dan Johnson ’11 recovered a Bantam fumble on the 29-yard line to arrest Trinity’s drive.
The next two possessions proved fruitless for both Trinity and Williams, but solid special teams work again gave the Ephs good field position. With just under eight minutes left in the first quarter, the Bantams punted to Eph returner Pat Barren ’11 who took the kick 25 yards to the Trinity 45. A few completions and some strong running by co-captain Brian Morrissey ’09 set up a 39-yard field goal by Scott Sobolewski ’10 to put the Ephs up 3-0. “Our kicker Scott Sobolewski and returners Pat Barren and Elijah Weeks have really provided us with outstanding field position,” said Head Coach Mike Whalen.
But the slim Eph lead melted quickly, as the Bantams scored in a flash, marching 71 yards off three plays for the touchdown. On the second play of the drive, Bantam running back Robert Jackson found a hole, taking the ball 38 yards to the Williams 27. The very next play senior quarterback Eric McGrath connected with receiver Michael Galligan to give Trinity a 7-3 lead.
With two minutes left in the first quarter, Moffitt connected twice with Nick Caro ’10 for gains of 24 and 21 yards. In the red zone to start the second quarter, Weeks came up with a clutch third-down run to give the Ephs a new set of downs inside the Trinity 10. Morrissey did the rest of the leg work and punched in a short run to put Williams back on top, 10-7. Sean Milano ’09 cut short the ensuing Bantam drive with his second interception in as many games.
The ball back in Williams’ possession, the Ephs again drove downfield. Moffitt orchestrated a scoring drive with consecutive completions, the first a seven-yarder to Ryan Powell ’09 and the second a 38-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Stew Buck ’09 in the end zone.
With just over two minutes left in the half and the ball on their own eight yard line, things were looking grim for the Bantams. But McGrath managed the clock like the three-year starter he is, leading Trinity 92 yards downfield on 14 plays for a touchdown. Down 17-14 going into the break, the Bantams nevertheless had momentum. “Having a senior QB who has been a starter for three years, enabled Trinity to make the plays on offense when they needed them most,” said Whalen.
That momentum manifested itself in a Trinity touchdown halfway into the third quarter. On the Ephs’ first drive of the half, Moffitt was again intercepted by Quinn, who returned the ball 17 yards to the Williams 34. Trinity running back Oliver Starnes took advantage of the good field position, breaking a 30-yard run for his second touchdown of the game.
Down 20-17, the Ephs’ offense still had plenty of time to regain the lead and plenty of help from the defensive corps. With 10 minutes left in the game, Will Cronin ’10 put the wind back in Williams’ sails with a diving interception. But the offensive squandered the opportunity as Trinity forced a three-and-out.
On their ensuing drive, the Bantams ate up the clock, inching 25 yards in five minutes. With just four minutes to go and Trinity threatening on third and two, the Eph defense again came up big – this time, Colin Curzi stuffed Starnes in the backfield for a loss of seven, giving Williams another chance to regain the lead.
“We have had a number of players step up on the defensive side of the ball and that is very encouraging,” Whalen said. “Our defensive coaches have done a great job preparing our kids during the week and it has paid off. I think the one area we must improve on is our tackling, but other than that they are playing extremely hard and with a lot of emotion.”
With the ball on their own 32, the Ephs likely only had one more possession to find their offensive grove. At first, prospects looked good as Moffitt hit Caro on a 20-yard completion to bring the ball to the Trinity side of the field. The hope was short-lived, however, as two incompletions, a penalty and a swing pass for a loss brought Williams to fourth and 32. With little left to lose, Williams tossed up a prayer that fell incomplete.
Trinity then ran out the rest of the clock to hand Williams its first defeat at home since 2004.
“You have to give Trinity’s defense a lot of credit as their kids made big plays when they had to,” Whalen said. “Some of our veteran players got frustrated and made some costly mistakes. In big games you simply can’t allow that to happen.”
After a standout performance in his first varsity start last Saturday, Moffitt struggled against the Bantams. While impressively connecting on half of his passes (15-for-30, 155 yards), Moffitt tossed two costly interceptions.
But Moffitt wasn’t the only Eph to have trouble with the Bantam defense. Morrissey, who consistently wracks up 100 yards on the ground per game, was held to just 79 yards on Saturday.
On defense, the Ephs were led by Ikenna Iheoma ’10 with nine tackles (eight solo). Charlie Burns ’09 finished with two sacks and a total of eight solo tackles, while Tim Batty ’09 and co-captain Trevor Powers ’09 had seven and six solo tackles, respectively.
The Ephs will travel to Maine this weekend to take on Bates (0-2).