Football suffers 31-18 defeat to Amherst in Homecoming game

Football (5-3) suffered a 31-18 loss to Amherst (8-0) in its Homecoming game last Saturday. The loss was the Ephs’ final game of an injury-ridden season. They finished third in the NESCAC, while the Jeffs claimed the conference crown.

Quarterback Chris Cleary ’12 got the starting nod in his final game at Williams, making his first start since Oct. 1 against Trinity.

Amherst assumed command of the game from the opening drive. The Jeffs made progress on the ground and in the air as they traversed 88 yards in just over three minutes to jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first.

Late in the first quarter, Williams got the ball on the Amherst 27. Tom Wohlwender ’13 rushed for five yards, but a false start on the Ephs erased his progress. Cleary lost a yard before Wohlwender carried the ball four yards on third to the Amherst 24. Joe Mallock ’14 split the uprights on a long, 41-yard kick to put the Ephs down 7-3 with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

On the men’s first drive of the second quarter, quarterback Adam Marske ’14, who was spelling Cleary, rushed for nine yards on first down to get to the Amherst 38. Wohlwender then carried the ball for two yards, and Cleary took the ball three more to give the Ephs a second-and-seven at the Jeffs’ 33. Cleary fired a 23-yard pass to tight end Sam Krieg ’13 to earn a first-and-goal at the Amherst 10. Cleary was sacked for a loss of five on first down and could not connect with Hartwell on second. The quarterback recovered and found Hartwell on third down for nine yards to set up a 23-yard field goal. Mallock’s kick was good, and the Ephs tightened the score to 7-6 with 10 minutes in the half.

Amherst responded with touchdowns on its next two drives. The Ephs had no answer for running back Eric Bunker, who carried the Jeffs down the field on both scoring drives. “Bunker is a good player,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said, “and they did a few things they had never shown to us on film all year. They did a great job of scheming us all day.” The men hurt their cause with crucial pass interference penalties, giving Amherst a first-and-goal on one penalty and destroying a third-and-long on the other. The Jeffs went up 21-6 with less than three minutes in the half.

Amherst was not finished in the opening half, as quarterback Brian McMahon led a charge to the Ephs’ 22. With one second remaining, Amherst notched a 39-yard field goal to go up 24-6 heading to the half.

After the break, Marske came in at quarterback.  Pinned to his own six, the Eph was sacked and fumbled the ball, which a Jeff recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Jeffs up 31-6.

Despite the fumble, Marske took command on the men’s next drive. He opened with a seven-yard rush to the Williams 36, which Wohlwender followed with a 14-yard run of his own. After a pass for no gain on first down, Marske threw to Hartwell for four yards on second down. He then fired to co-captain JC Stickney ’12 for 18 yards to convert a third down. A few plays later, the men faced a fourth-and-three at the Amherst 21. Marske stepped up to make a 10-yard pass to Stickney for a first down. Wohlwender rushed for a yard on first down, followed by an incomplete pass to Tomas Kearney ’12. On a third-and-nine, Marske slung another pass to Kearney, making a nine-yard connection. Wohlwender carried the ball into the end zone on his first attempt, tightening the score to 31-12 with under four minutes to play in the third. The Ephs missed a two-point try, leaving them down three scores.

Most of the fourth quarter was scoreless, with neither team piecing together enough offense to find the end zone for the majority of the quarter. With three minutes to play, Williams scored after Marske converted a fourth-and-28 at the Amherst 40 with a 35-yard pass to Kearney. Wohlwender finished the last five yards, finding the end zone with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Mallock’s extra point missed, and the Ephs fell 31-18.

Cleary was rusty in his start, going 4-12 with two interceptions and managing just 67 yards. Marske impressed after a shaky first drive; he went 18-25 for 171 yards. “Adam really has done a good job of getting better each week and leading the team,” Kelton said. “He is a natural leader, and he’ll keep getting better.”

Wohlwender was the Ephs’ top rusher with 26 carries, 106 yards and two touchdowns. Stickney had eight receptions and 73 yards, while Hartwell had seven receptions for 69 yards.

Emmanuel Whyte ’13 led the Ephs with nine total tackles. Co-captain Dan O’Mara ’12 had his third interception in three games and turned in eight tackles.

With the Homecoming loss, the men finish their season with a 5-3 record. The team will graduate 15 seniors this season, including Cleary, Stickney, O’Mara and co-captains Steve Denza ’12 and Dylan Schultz ’12. “This year’s class was a special group,” Kelton said. “They have a great legacy and are great people as well as great players.”

“This season was very tough on all of us and not what we will ever expect,” Kelton said. “Our team had many successful moments this season, and I am proud of our guys and the fight they have been able show.”

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