Football downs Wesleyan for Homecoming victory

Football (7-0) cruised to its seventh win of the season on Saturday, besting Wesleyan 45-7 in the Homecoming game. The weekend’s results put the men solidly atop the NESCAC as Amherst, the last undefeated team other than Williams, fell to Trinity 28-13. Saturday’s decisive victory was an important one for the team, as the game saw former Eph coach Mike Whalen return to Williams for the first time since taking the head coaching position at Wesleyan.

“It was a great feeling to win Homecoming and to have the great support of the student body, the administration and the alumni,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said. “We were glad we made Homecoming a very fun weekend for all.” When asked about the victory, Kelton replied, “Winning always feel good. It wasn’t personal for me like it may have been for many of the players and coaches. I was just excited for my team and for the fans.”

The Cardinals were down almost from the get-go: The Ephs were in command for the entire game, as a total team effort held the Cardinals to 189 total offensive yards while putting up an impressive 292 yards passing and 402 total yards. The team seemed inspired by Kelton’s philosophy: One game at a time, one play at a time. Throughout the season, Kelton has stressed the one-track mind approach, and it has paid off in spades.

“The keys to success for us started with the focused week of practice by the players,” Kelton said. “The coaching staff did a great job of putting a plan together, and the players executed the plan. We were able to run the ball, and that always helps our passing game. Our special teams were also very good.” The special teams’ success this weekend was highlighted by Jeff Lauer ’11, the team’s placekicker, who was named NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his contributions. Rostered for four years on the men’s soccer team, Lauer made a 32-yard field goal on his first-ever attempt on Saturday after joining football in the second week.

The men didn’t once fall behind during the contest. Taking advantage of an illegal forward pass on the first drive by former Eph Matt Coyne, who started at quarterback for Wesleyan, the defense quickly forced the Cardinals to punt. Wide receiver Darren Hartwell ’13, who also plays the part of special teams playmaker, almost returned the punt for a touchdown but was brought down after a 33-yard return, giving the Ephs great field position. The offense took advantage of the short field and running back Ryan Lupo ’11 punched in a touchdown on the Ephs’ first offensive possession to give the home team a 7-0 lead.

Though that marked Lupo’s only touchdown of the day, he ended the game with 44 yards on 12 carries. Alex Scyocurka ’14, the second half of the Ephs’ two-pronged running attack, finished with 40 total yards on 11 carries. Despite the running game being held to 84 yards, Wesleyan’s focus on the threat of Lupo and Scyocurka allowed Williams to open up the passing attack.

Quarterback Pat Moffitt ’11 completed 18 of his 25 passes for 292 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. The first touchdown pass he completed, a two-yarder to tight end tri-captain Jon Carroll ’11, marked his 18th of the season. Moffitt’s tally has now surpassed the previous Williams record for the most touchdown passes in a single season. Moffitt wasn’t the only one breaking records during Homecoming, as Hartwell caught his ninth touchdown of the season for the new Eph record for most touchdown receptions in a single season.

Hartwell, however, was more interested in talking about his teammates. “It was definitely exciting for me personally to break the record, but it was also great to see guys like [J.C. Stickney ’12] and [Tomas Kearney ’12] play well,” he said. “J.C. had a huge game for us and Tomas caught a key touchdown in the first half. Moffitt has had an amazing season so far and I’m glad we’ve been able to benefit from it.”

On Wesleyan’s next drive, Coyne’s pass attempt was intercepted by Tyler Cole ’12, who took the ball five yards back to the Wesleyan 20-yard line. Moffitt then connected with Stickney for an 18-yard gain before Carroll caught a two-yarder to give the Ephs a 14-0 lead.

The Cardinals tried to make a game of it on their next offensive possession. After a 35-yard return gave Wesleyan good field position, Whalen decided to go to the ground to try and get some momentum. Williams was called for two key penalties, encroachment on a fourth-and-one and a pass interference on a third-and-nine, which kept the drive going. Coyne made a very athletic play, scampering 11 yards around multiple Eph defenders to cut the lead to 14-7 with 5:50 left to go in the first half. That would be the only bright spot in what was a difficult day for Wesleyan.

With 2:58 left to go in the half, Williams started a drive at its own 47 yard line. Wasting no time, Moffitt completed a beautiful pass to Stickney who ran it out of bounds for a 21-yard gain. On the very next play, Moffitt hit Kearney for a 31-yard touchdown score to give the Ephs a 21-7 lead as the home crowd roared with delight. Wesleyan tried to get another drive going, but Coyne was stripped by lineman Tim Kiely ’11. Pat Barren ’11 picked up the fumble and ran it deep into Cardinal territory. Moffitt then managed to drive the Ephs down to the two yard line and punch the ball into the endzone for a 28-7 Williams lead.

Williams continued to dominate Wesleyan throughout the second half. The defense forced a fumble and three consecutive three-and-outs during the third quarter, paving the way for the offense to dominate. Over the course of their next five offensive possessions, the Ephs scored four touchdowns and one field goal to make the score 45-7 by the end of the third quarter. Many of the younger players and backups saw time on the field during the fourth quarter.

Hartwell said that the win was especially meaningful in light of last year’s loss. “It was a great feeling to win the Homecoming game and participate in ‘the walk’ afterwards, especially after losing last year’s Homecoming to Amherst,” Hartwell said. “As for next week, we’re just trying to prepare for Amherst like we’ve prepared for every other game, and hopefully we can go out and get the victory.”

Kelton acknowledged the talent of the Amherst team. “Amherst is a very good team,” Kelton said. “They are going to play their best to try and upset us and get a share of the NESCAC title. We have to not only have a great week of practice, but we have to have our best week of practice. We have a chance to have a very special season and in order for that to happen we need to be disciplined and focused on doing our jobs and playing hard and physical. The game this weekend will be one of the most exciting games of the season because [everything] is riding on it.”

Williams will travel to play rival Amherst Saturday at noon for the right to have sole possession of the 2010 NESCAC crown. The Ephs will be looking to avenge last year’s Homecoming loss and to ruin any hopes the Jeffs might have of sharing the title.

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