Football (5-2) narrowly defeated Wesleyan (3-4) in a back-and-forth battle on Saturday. A critical fourth-quarter field goal from Joe Mallock ’14 gave the Ephs a decisive 19-17 edge over the Cardinals.
Williams ripped off a 65-yard drive to open the game, racing to an early lead. Marco Hernandez ’14 carried the ball for two yards from the Williams 35 on the first play. Adam Marske ’14 tossed an incomplete pass on second down before firing to co-captain JC Stickney ’12 for 24 yards on third down. Hernandez then rushed for five yards to the Cardinals’ 34, and Marske backed him up with an eight-yard pass to Darren Hartwell ’13. Marske finished the drive, rifling a 26-yard pass to Hartwell for a touchdown. Mallock’s kick was good, and the Ephs claimed an early 7-0 lead.
After forcing a Cardinal three-and-out on the next drive, Marske took control at the Ephs’ 43. He connected with Greg Payton ’14 for 13 yards, earning a first down at the Wesleyan 44. After a rush for no gain, Marske slung a pass to Sam Krieg ’13 for 16 yards. Hernandez broke a nine-yard run to give the men a second-and-one at the Wesleyan 14. However, on second down, Hartwell lost two yards on a rush, and Marske could not connect with Tomas Kearney ’12 on third down, forcing Mallock to attempt a 34-yard field goal. Mallock split the uprights, and Williams burst to a 10-0 lead with just under eight minutes left in the first.
Wesleyan quarterback Matt Coyne caught fire in the second. On the Cardinals’ first drive of the quarter, he completed a pass to Jay Fabien for 41 yards on a third-and-nine, willing the Cardinals into the end zone and tightening the Ephs’ lead to 10-7 with eight minutes left in the half.
Williams responded on its next drive when Marske converted a third down with an 11-yard connection with Stickney. Hernandez took the ball from the Wesleyan 32, rushing 11 yards over two plays. Marske then threw to Hartwell for 21 yards into the end zone. Mallock’s extra point was blocked, but the Ephs had extended their lead to 16-7 with five to play in the half.
Williams could not maintain its lead, however, as Coyne carried Wesleyan back to the end zone with a 20-yard pass that shortened the men’s advantage to 16-14. The score remained 16-14 at halftime.
The Cardinals continued to pressure the Ephs in the third. On their second drive of the half, rookie running back LaDarius Drew alternated making plays with Coyne to earn a first-and-goal at the Williams two with about five minutes left in the quarter. Though the defense stepped up and stopped the Cardinals short of the end zone, Cardinal Sebastian Aguirre connected on the 18-yard field goal and took a 17-16 advantage.
“They did a great job of holding Wesleyan to just three,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said. “Our coaches made a couple great calls, and our guys really stepped up.”
After a sack killed a promising drive for the Ephs at the start of the fourth, neither team managed a quality drive until the final seven minutes of the game. At that point, the Williams offense stepped up. Marske fired a 27-yard pass to Hartwell from the 50-yard line to earn a first down at the Wesleyan 23. The Ephs could not close in on the end zone, however, and Mallock faced a 40-yard field goal attempt. The sophomore notched his second field goal of the day, putting Williams back on top 19-17 with five minutes remaining.
“I told Joe there was going to come a moment in one of the games that would require him to make a couple of kicks,” Kelton said. “He knew we had confidence in him, and he came through for us.”
On the Cardinals’ ensuing drive, the Ephs took possession with 3:32 to play after a Cardinal fumble. Then, in his first action since leaving the team’s Oct. 22 contest against Tufts in the first quarter with concussion-like symptoms, Tom Wohlwender ’13 broke a 56-yard run with three minutes left to put the Ephs in the Cardinals’ red zone. “Tom was beaten down,” Kelton said. “Now that he’s back, he’ll make us that much more potent with our 1-2 punch” of Wohlwender and Hernandez. Williams could not find the end zone, and following Wohlwender’s run, Mallock’s 30-yard field goal attempt was blocked, keeping the score at 19-17.
On Wesleyan’s next drive, co-captain Dan O’Mara ’12 intercepted a pass from Coyne at Wesleyan’s 30 with just 30 seconds left, sealing the 19-17 victory for Williams.
Marske carried the offense with his best performance of the year. The Eph was 17-27 with 228 yards and two touchdowns. “The game is starting to slow down for Adam,” Kelton said. “That’s letting him see reads and make better throws.” Hartwell was Williams’s leading receiver, taking five receptions for 83 yards.
O’Mara led the defense in limiting Wesleyan to 17 points; he turned in 11 tackles, as well as a game-ending interception. “When he’s going, we’re as good as anybody,” Kelton said. “He’s a talented guy that can make up for other mistakes, and he really lifts us as a team.” O’Mara earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance on Saturday.
Williams will take on Amherst (8-0) in its Homecoming game on Saturday. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. The game will include a ceremony in which Williams retires its first number in the history of the program, in honor of Mike Reily ’64. Reily’s life was cut short by Hodgken’s disease almost immediately following his graduation at the age of 21. Reily was a critical member of a Williams team that upset a heavily favored Amherst squad in 1961 with a 12-0 victory.
“We recognized Reily in our ‘Eph Legends’ section of our media guide this year,” Kelton said, “and for at least 35 years, his number has been retired [in practice]. We’re making it official this weekend. It’s been a huge honor to be a part of it.”