Football thrashes Middlebury 41-17 at home

Football pushed its record to 4-0 on Saturday with a convincing 41-17 victory over Middlebury. In a battle that pitted Middlebury, the NESCAC’s top passing offense, against the conference’s top overall defense, the Ephs’ offense stole the show, posting a school record 609 total yards, 334 of which came from the arm of Pat Moffitt ’11. NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week Darren Hartwell ’13 continued his emergence as a go-to receiver by once again tying the Williams single-game mark of receiving touchdowns, tallying three on Saturday. The win came on the heels of a 41-0 blowout victory against Bates the previous weekend.

After allowing a first down on Middlebury’s opening drive, the defense forced a punt and the Williams offense took over at the eight-yard line. Fans were treated to a replay of the Trinity game two weeks prior as, on the first play from scrimmage, Moffitt connected with Hartwell for a 92-yard touchdown pass on the same play call that netted two touchdown passes of 83 and 89 yards against Trinity. The PAT by Chris Cleary ’12 gave the Ephs an early 7-0 lead.

The men took over again on their own 37-yard line. After the big play to Hartwell, Head Coach Aaron Kelton went back to basics, handing off to Ryan Lupo ’11 three straight times for two first downs. Following two short passes to J.C. Stickney ’12, Moffitt found Tomas Kearney ’12, who dove over the pylon for a 20-yard touchdown, his first career touchdown catch. The Ephs held a commanding 14-0 lead after another Cleary PAT.

The offensive assault continued, with Moffitt and Hartwell teaming up for a 31-yard touchdown. Hartwell caught a bubble screen and cut back inside, sprinting untouched into the end zone to expand the Ephs’ lead to 20-0.

Middlebury answered by putting together a solid 11-play drive. However, the Williams defense, which had stifled the Middlebury passing assault to this point, stood strong and forced a 26-yard field goal. The drive was indicative of the team’s defense: The Ephs employed a bend-but-don’t-break strategy, allowing first downs on several drives but coming up with big, drive-ending plays.

“Middlebury has a great offense, but our coaches came up with a great scheme and defensive game-plan,” tri-captain Dylan Schultz ’11 said. “All we had to do was execute it.”

The first quarter ended with the Ephs ahead 20-3.

The second quarter started with much of the same for the men. After getting the ball at their own 33, the Eph offense put together a balanced drive culminating with Ryan Scyocurka ’14 plunging in from five yards out. Cleary converted the PAT to push the lead to 27-3.

Middlebury once again marched into Williams territory, but Pat Barren ’11 sniffed out a pass play on a Panthers’ fourth down and made one of his nine solo tackles – a game high – to thwart the Middlebury drive. Three plays later, Scyocurka broke loose over the left tackle and sprinted 59 yards for another touchdown. Scyocurka finished the game with 132 yards on only 11 carries to lead all rushers. Cleary split the uprights again to make it a 34-3 game.

The defense shone again right before the half. With Middlebury at the Williams nine, Schultz intercepted a tipped pass by Panther quarterback Donald McKillop. Middlebury finally crossed the goal line after a Williams punt, bringing the score to 34-10.

The Eph defense continued to stand tall in the second half. After a defensive stop, the Panthers advanced deep into Eph territory, but cornerback Hunter Lent ’13 broke a fourth and 13 pass near the team’s goal line. The men responded by marching down the field, culminating with Moffitt’s fourth touchdown pass of the day on a nine-yard fade to Hartwell. The PAT made it 41-10. The Panthers scored a fourth quarter touchdown for a 41-17 final.

Kelton cites the weekend’s win as a continuation of the team’s march toward its end-of-season goals. “It was a very big win for the entire team,” he said. “Middlebury is a very high-scoring team and we did a great job on defense limiting them to only 17 points. We also continue to get better each week on offense and that showed with our putting up a record 609 yards.”

Saturday marked the second week in a row that the Ephs put up 41 points. On Oct. 9, in Lewiston, Maine, the team blanked Bates 41-0. Moffitt threw for 280 yards on the day and tossed touchdown passes to Stickney, Hartwell and tri-captain tight end Jon Carroll ’11. The defense suffocated the Bates triple-option attack, holding the Bobcats to 82 total yards.

Kelton expressed pride in the team’s “hard work and attention to details. [The men] deserve all of the success we are having, but we still have a long way to go.”

Williams will look to move to 5-0 next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. as the team goes on the road to face Tufts.

“We want to continue to work hard and prepare the way we have all season,” Kelton said of the men’s practice strategy this week. “Tufts is a good team, and it will take our best efforts to defeat [it].”