Football’s 2009 season-opener and the program’s 1000th game did not look promising for the Ephs as they neared the end of regulation. Trailing Colby 19-17 with only minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Williams executed a successful 69-yard drive, scoring a touchdown at the one-minute mark and sealing its first victory of the season and 610th win for the program. Although the team came out on top, the come-from-behind win was not what the Ephs had in mind when they left for Maine.
With a number of new starters in the lineup, Williams’ offense struggled at the start of the game. Head Coach Mike Whalen was less than pleased with the Ephs’ first half performance. “There was a total lack of execution,” he said. “Not one particular person or player, it was just 11 guys not doing their assignment on every play.
“The game plan was very good, and the plays were there â€“ we just didn’t have guys making those plays,” he continued. “Some of it was mental, some of it was lack of execution and some of it was bad luck.”
Unlike the Ephs, the Mules came out of the gate strong. On the first play quarterback Nick Kmetz hooked up with receiver Connor Walsh for a 44-yard pass that found the Eph defense out of position. Colby would score a touchdown on a one-yard run by Dan Prunier later in the drive, taking an early 7-0 lead. The Ephs responded with a 29-yard field goal from Scott Sobolewski ’10 in the second quarter, but the team was unable to create any more successful drives in the first half.
The Ephs offensive difficulties carried over to the third quarter. Quarterback Pat Moffit ’11 threw an interception early in the quarter, giving Colby advantageous field position at the Williams’ 40. The Mules capitalized on their opportunity as Prunier struck again with a 4-yard run. The Mules only managed six points however, as tri-captain Ikenna Iheoma ’10 got his hand on the Mules extra point attempt and kept Williams within 10 points of Colby.
It was at that point that the Ephs turned the tide. With Moffit and Matt Coyne ’12 switching off at quarterback, the men were able to quickly drive down the field with the help of a 31-yard catch by tri-captain wide-out Nick Caro ’10. After entering into the red zone, Coyne scored on a six-yard touchdown run to cap off the seven-play, 76-yard drive that lasted just under four minutes and cut the Mules’ lead to 13-10.
The defense continued to play well during Colby’s next possession, forcing a fumble that defensive back Matt Zanedis ’10 scooped up and ran back for a 32-yard touchdown to give Williams its first lead of the game, 17-13.
“The offense was struggling for a while, but the defense made a good play, and we were able to run it back for a touchdown. It was a team effort, and it was great to give us the lead,” said Zanedis.
“The good news is that we were down 13-3 and didn’t panic. We stuck with our game plan and executed what we needed to do,” Whalen said.
Colby responded with a scoring drive that lasted 7:25 and consisted of 20 plays. The drive was kept alive by a costly fourth down penalty by the Ephs. Kmetz was able to punch the ball through on a two-yard run, putting the Mules up 19-17 with 8:49 to go after the Ephs blocked another PAT.
The Ephs and Mules then traded possessions, leaving Williams with the ball with 3:08 to go. Starting at their own 31, the Ephs methodically drove down the field with Coyne and Moffit both connecting with Caro for a total of 26 yards. Then Moffit threw for a 23-yard gain to Bryce Bennett ’11 to put the Ephs at the 16-yard line. Coyne wasted no time and on the next play ran directly into the end zone, giving the men a 23-19 win over Colby after the defense prevented the Mules from any late-game heroics.
“I think this [win] is really important because the past few times we have gone to Maine for the season-opener we have lost,” Iheoma said. “We started the season off on a good note, and it was good to see that our team had the resilience to fight back and win.”
Whalen remained level-headed about the offense’s spectacular drive. “Maybe there was a sense of urgency, like our backs were against the wall,” said Whalen. “We practice this stuff a lot in terms of no-huddle, two-minute offense and maybe it was that change of tempo that helped us. There are a lot of things we need to correct but I am glad we came away with the win.”
The Ephs have a challenging week ahead of them, as the team faces Trinity, who currently holds a 12-game winning streak, on Saturday in Hartford, Conn.