Football (3-2) secured its third win of the season on Saturday, defeating Tufts (0-5) 38-17 on the strength of three second-quarter touchdowns. The win moved the Ephs into a tie with Wesleyan for third in the NESCAC.
Williams scored on its first drive, as Adam Marske ’14 opened the game with a 36-yard completion to Tomas Kearney ’12. After a rush for no gain at the Tufts 45, Marske fired a 45-yard pass to Kearney for the score. Joseph Mallock ’14 converted the PAT to put the Ephs up 7-0 with 13 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
“We threw the ball early to try to loosen Tufts up and let us establish the run game,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said. Marske was critical in this game plan: “Adam steps up big when we need him,” co-captain Steve Denza ’12 said. “He did a great job of maintaining composure and making great reads.”
On Tufts’ opening drive, Chris Cameron ’13 sacked quarterback Johnny Lindquist for four yards at the Williams 43. Despite being shaken up, the Jumbo managed to rip off a 39-yard pass on the next play to put his team in the red zone. Jumbo Ryan Pollock rushed the remaining four yards into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 10 minutes to go in the quarter.
With 52 seconds left in the first, co-captain Dan O’Mara ’12 picked off Jumbo John Dodds, who was spelling Lindquist, and returned the ball 32 yards to the Tufts nine. With Tom Wohlwender ’13 concussed after a hit in the first, the Ephs turned to Marco Hernandez ’14. Hernandez finished the thrust toward the end zone, tallying three rushes for nine yards to open the second quarter with a touchdown. Mallock’s kick was good, and the Ephs went in front 14-7.
“We have three outstanding running backs who can come in and not skip a beat,” Denza said.
On the next drive, the Jumbos traveled 75 yards down the field over 12 plays and knotted the game at 14-14 with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Then, after forcing Tufts to punt with less than three minutes left in the half, Darren Hartwell ’13 found a hole in the Jumbos’ punt coverage and returned the ball 77 yards, streaking down the field to break the tie. His run was the longest punt return for a touchdown in the program’s history. Mallock connected on the PAT, and the Ephs earned a 21-14 lead.
“Every team we play has to prepare for [Hartwell] specifically,” Denza said. “I think he’s the most explosive player in the conference, and he can score from anywhere on the field. That’s invaluable for setting up our offense.”
“Darren is a dynamic kid, and he’s one of the best players in this league,” Kelton said. “Our guys look to him to make plays, and this was a huge boost.”
Williams forced a Tufts three-and-out on the following Jumbos drive and got the ball back with two minutes left in the half. Marske stepped up at the Williams 33, slinging a 19-yard pass to co-captain JC Stickney ’12. The sophomore quarterback drilled a pass to Greg Payton ’14 for 37 yards. Hernandez finished the drive, taking the Ephs 11 yards on three runs to score a fourth touchdown. Mallock’s kick split the uprights to secure a 28-14 lead as the half ended.
The third quarter was scoreless, as a promising Eph drive was stifled at the Tufts one-yard line with an interception of a pass intended for Kearney. However, the Ephs started a scoring drive at the Jumbos’ 33 with six seconds left in the quarter. The quarter ended with a Hernandez rush for no gain, but Marske opened the fourth with a 33-yard bullet to Hartwell for a touchdown, giving Williams a 35-14 lead after Mallock’s kick.
Williams got the ball back from Tufts quickly, as the defense combined to sack Lindquist for 13 yards. Hernandez carried the ball 12 yards over five plays from the Tufts 38. Marske then completed a pass to Hartwell for five yards on a second-and-nine to put the Ephs in field goal range. Mallock made good on a 36-yard attempt, and Williams claimed a 38-14 edge with eight minutes remaining.
The Ephs gave up a 35-yard field goal after a personal foul on Andre Lafontant ’14 for helmet-to-helmet contact pushed the Jumbos to the Ephs’ 15. Tom Foote ’13 sacked Lindquist for two yards, but Jumbo Adam Auerbach split the uprights to bring the score to 38-17 with a minute remaining. Williams then kept it on the ground in the final minute and closed out a 38-17 victory.
Marske completed 10-17 for 210 yards, throwing for two touchdowns with one interception. Hernandez led the rushing game with 21 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Hartwell had a huge day: The Eph had 61 receiving yards and 168 return yards and scored two touchdowns. Hartwell was named NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.
Cameron led the defense with two sacks and 10 total tackles. Emmanuel Whyte ’13 had one sack and 11 total tackles. “He’s a good player, and he’s been trying to get some consistency,” Kelton said. “This week really opened our eyes to being able to put him on the field in more situations.”
The men held Tufts to two touchdowns and 250 yards. “Our defense settled down a bit and got down to just playing football,” Kelton said. “We’ve been waiting for this kind of performance all year, and it’s encouraging to see that we can improve during the year.”
Williams will host Hamilton (2-3) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.