The Ephs played their hearts out in Saturday’s Homecoming matchup against the Jeffs, but it just was not enough to beat their undefeated rivals from Amherst.
Williams and Amherst’s storied rivalry continued on Saturday with a well-fought contest that saw Amherst win the game 26-21 after stopping Williams just short of a first down on the final drive of the contest. The play came after the Ephs drove down the field and wound up with a fourth-and-four and 1:18 left on the clock. They elected to pass, and quarterback Pat Moffitt ’11 threw across the field to tight end Jon Carroll ’11, a good play call as everyone in the stands expected the ball to go to either running back Ryan Lupo ’11 or a wide receiver. Carroll nearly got to the first down but was brought down less than a yard short, turning the ball over on downs and allowing Amherst to run out the clock.
With the win, Amherst completed its undefeated season and obtained both the Little Three title, its first since 2004, and the NESCAC title, its first since 2000.
The fans were electric throughout what was a very entertaining and equal contest. Williams and Amherst matched one another play for play, yard for yard. Both teams battled back from deficits to make this game one of the most exciting football matchups of the year.
In the locker room after the loss, Head Coach Mike Whalen commended the men’s tenacity. “I told them that I was proud of their effort,” Whalen said. “When we got down by two scores, other programs would have packed it in. We didn’t. We fought back and got in a position to win the game, but we just came up short. The number of mistakes we made in that game . . . it was unlikely that we were going to win against a team like Amherst.”
The Jeffs immediately began to drive down the field after receiving the opening kickoff, but the Eph defense held them to only a field goal, giving the Jeffs a 3-0 lead. Williams responded, quickly utilizing the remarkable talent of running back Lupo, who helped drive the offense down the field. Moffitt then completed a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Bryce Bennett ’11, and two plays later hooked up with receiver B.J. Griffin ’12 for a 24-yard touchdown pass to give Williams a 7-3 lead.
The rest of the first quarter showcased the defensive prowess of both teams as neither offense managed to score. The Ephs did drive down the field and ended the quarter on the Amherst 29-yard line.
The Ephs came out quickly in the second quarter, building off their first quarter drive. After recovering a fumble the Ephs scored on an impressive Moffitt 28-yard touchdown pass to Bennett to put the Ephs ahead 14-3. Amherst was stymied on their next drive, but the Jeff defense then held Williams at bay. On his next drive Amherst quarterback Alex Vetras threw a pass to wide-out Andrew Reed that Reed took 70 yards to the end zone, reducing the lead to 14-10 in favor of Williams.
That lead would not last long. The Amherst defense stripped Will Cronin ’10, and Eric Bunker picked up the fumble, returning it 33 yards for the touchdown and reclaiming the lead for Amherst 17-14.
A field goal by Amherst’s Matt Rawson put the Jeffs ahead 20-14, and the Ephs entered the fourth quarter down.
Amherst continued to widen its lead. After intercepting a Moffitt pass on the opening play of the fourth quarter, Veras connected with receiver Andre Gary for 54 yards to give Amherst the ball on the Williams 10-yard line. On the next play the ball was in the end zone, and Amherst went up 26-14 after the two-point-conversion failed.
The home crowd was silenced, but the players were not. An incredibly efficient four-play, 59-yard drive that lasted 1:10 ended with Moffitt running four yards for a touchdown to bring the Ephs right back into the game, making the score 26-21 with just over 10 minutes left in regulation. After a series of drives, Amherst got the ball with 6:20 left on the clock at their own 20-yard line. After two first downs the Williams defense managed to cause a turnover, its first of the game. Aaron Rauh of Amherst lost the ball and linebacker Dan Johnson ’11 recovered it with 3:44 left in the game, giving the Ephs a chance to come back and win.
After an 11-yard run by Lupo for a first down, the Ephs were called for a false start that had the team looking at a first-and-15 on the Amherst 34-yard line. After two rushes for a total of 11 yards by Lupo and an incomplete pass, the Ephs faced a fourth-and-four. Both teams called timeouts as the crowds were on their feet in anticipation, Williams with the hope that it could keep driving and win the game and Amherst knowing that it needed just one more stop to complete its perfect season. Despite a grueling effort by Williams, Moffitt’s pass to Carroll came up one yard short of the first down.
Whalen looked at the big picture when analyzing the loss. “The natural instinct is to look at the big errors, but there were a lot of other things that contributed to the loss,” said Whalen. “They converted three of four third downs of nine yards or more. There were special team’s mistakes, interceptions on our part and missed interceptions on our part as well. They made the plays and we didn’t. There isn’t any one play that made a difference. There were too many plays that didn’t go our way, around 15 or 20, and it is almost impossible to win if that is the case, which it was.”
With the loss, Williams finished its season 6-2. Looking forward, Whalen seemed confident. “We [said] goodbye to the seniors who have meant so much to us, and we begin our quest for next season. We elect captains and go through the motions and start the offseason.
“A lot of other teams in this league would be ecstatic about finishing 6-2, but we feel like we haven’t won a game all year long,” Whalen said. “There are a lot of positives that took place this season, and we have a good nucleus returning and will look to have an even better season next year. I have a sneaking suspicion that we will be extra motivated this offseason.”