Riding the strength of its rushing game, football (2-2) pounded Middlebury for a 48-28 road win on Saturday. The team’s second win of the season came after it fell to Bates 35-26 on Oct. 8 in its home opener.
Starting quarterback Chris Cleary ’12 was unavailable for last Saturday’s game against the Panthers; he has not appeared in a game since an early exit with an ankle sprain on Oct. 1 against Trinity. The Ephs were also without running back Alex Scyocurka ’14, who has not played this season due to a knee injury.
Without Cleary, Williams had to rely on a strong backfield against Middlebury. Tom Wohlwender ’13 broke off a huge 62-yard run to put the Ephs on the board early. Wohlwender carried the ball right from the Williams 38 into the endzone, and Joseph Mallock ’14 connected on the kick to give the Ephs a 7-0 lead with 9:08 left in the first.
“We got some early momentum, which is always great, especially on the road,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said, “and we’re pretty good when we’re able to establish the run game.”
The Panthers responded early in the second quarter, capitalizing on quality field position at the Williams 38. Middlebury kept the defense guessing, mixing it up on the ground and in the air to reach the endzone in five plays and knot the game at 7-7 with 12:42 remaining in the second.
Williams got the ball back at its 34 following the kickoff, and after two short rushes from Wohlwender, quarterback Adam Marske ’14 rushed for eight yards on third-and-six. Three plays later, Marske found co-captain JC Stickney ’12 for a 48-yard pass that put Williams at the Middlebury one. Wohlwender then pushed through the middle to score his second touchdown of the game, and Mallock’s kick put the Ephs on top 14-7 with three minutes remaining in the half.
Middlebury then got the ball at its 31 and strung together an 11-play scoring drive. Panther quarterback McCallum Foote converted a key fourth-and-two at the Williams 16 with a 15-yard pass to bring the Panthers to the one-yard line. Running back Remi Ashkar rushed up the middle to the endzone and tied the game at 14-14 with 6:03 to go.
After failed drives by both teams, the Williams offense took the ball with about two minutes to play at the Williams 37. Wohlwender broke free for 35 yards on the first play of the drive, and a Middlebury personal foul then moved the ball at the Middlebury 13. Marco Hernandez ’14 lost three yards on first down, but Marske connected with wide receiver Darren Hartwell ’13 on both second and third down to give the Ephs a fourth-and-two at the Panthers five. Kelton decided not to kick a field goal, and Wohlwender came through, rushing five yards to score the Ephs’ third touchdown. “We didn’t want to give Middlebury the ball back by the half,” Kelton said. “We knew we were getting the ball first in the half and we were hoping to score back-to-back.” Mallock missed the extra point, but Williams went to the locker rooms with a 20-14 advantage.
The Ephs came out blazing in the third quarter: Marske fired a 56-yard pass to Hartwell on the Ephs’ first drive to earn their fourth touchdown. Mallock’s extra point attempt was good, and Williams had a 27-14 lead only 52 seconds into the third.
“We were trying to get a score early and set the tone for the half,” Kelton said. “We had the wind at our backs and did what we wanted to do, keeping the ball up.”
Williams then forced Middlebury to punt. On the Ephs’ ensuing drive, Marske passed to Tomas Kearney ’12 for 17 yards to break into Panther territory. After two plays for little gain, Hernandez broke a 22-yard run to the Middlebury 13. Kristian Lapointe ’14 notched a first down on two rushes for 10 yards, and Hernandez finished the drive with a three-yard run into the endzone. Mallock’s kick was good to put the Ephs on top of the Panthers 34-14 with 9:02 remaining in the quarter.
Middlebury then scored on an electric 41-yard run from Ashkar, tightening the game at 34-21 with just over seven minutes left in the third. “[Ashkar] had a long run, and we missed a couple tackles,” Kelton said. “We need to work on stopping the run.”
The score held until just under nine minutes into the fourth. On the Eph drive starting with 9:45 to play, Hernandez ripped off four straight rushes to move the Ephs from their own 29 to the Panthers 43, earning two first downs on 28 yards. Lapointe then rushed for a yard before Marske locked in Hartwell for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Williams extended its lead to 41-21 with an extra point from Mallock.
The Panthers scored on their ensuing drive to narrow the Ephs’ lead to 48-28 with four minutes on the clock, but the Ephs shut the door on the following drive. After Marske found Stickney for a 15-yard pass, the team kept it on the ground, as Hernandez had seven carries for 25 yards. Hernandez then cemented the lead with a five-yard touchdown run, and the Ephs finished the Panthers off 48-21.
Marske was 9-19 for 214 yards with two touchdowns. “Adam’s playing more relaxed and consistent now,” Kelton said. “He’s getting better reads and playing well for us.”
Hernandez had 24 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns, while Wohlwender had 13 carries for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Dan Canina ’12 had a seven-yard sack, and co-captain Dan O’Mara ’12 snagged an interception for 39 yards.
“We made plays and played hard and were more disciplined [than Middlebury],” Kelton said.
Williams fell 35-26 to Bates on Oct. 8. Wohlwender had three touchdowns in the game on 103 total yards. Marske was sacked three times and had two interceptions in the contest. Despite the pressure, he was 20-33, throwing for 254 yards and one touchdown.
Down 21-14 and driving at the End of the first half, the Ephs nearly tied the Bobcats when Marske found Hartwell at the 11-yard line with 12 seconds left. However, the Bobcats forced a fumble to lead 21-14 at the half. Bates scored two more touchdowns in the second half, and Williams could not close the gap, falling 35-26.
Williams will host Tufts on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.