NESN features celebrate Amherst rivalry

On Thursday, a film crew from New England Sports Network (NESN) was on campus gathering footage for two upcoming TV features. The first, a trivia show called Schooled, saw three students from Williams pitted against three Amherst students in a series of academically-themed challenges. The Williams team was comprised of Lysa Vola ’13, Marty Clarke ’14 and Alex Kling ’16. The Schooled team members were mic-ed up and followed throughout the day by the NESN camera crew, capturing hours of footage for what will ultimately be a 25-minute episode. NESN film crews also collected material for a documentary highlighting the Williams-Amherst rivalry entitled The Biggest Little Game in America.

Despite the distractions of the film crew, the Williams squad took the quiz portion of the tournament seriously. “Overall, my thoughts were to just go in strong, not to let them get a huge lead over us at any point,” Vola said about her game plan. “And to prove that Williams is the better team overall.”

The first challenge, which took place in Lasell, required the team to draw on its collective knowledge of historical events. “We really relied on Alex [Kling] for the first challenge,” Clarke said. “He was quite a history buff.”

For the second challenge, the teams faced off in Chapin in an individual back-and-forth trivia competition. “The second challenge was the most nerve-wracking because you didn’t have the support of your teammates and were constantly racking your brain for more answers,” Clarke said. Vola agreed with her teammate: “We rocked the team challenges while stumbling a little bit during the individual challenge round.”

The third and final challenge took place on Weston Field and required the team to fill in spots in a grid based upon confusing directions, such as “blue is red, circle is square.” Playing on Weston Field, the site of so many heated encounters between the Ephs and Jeffs, added an extra element to the competition and pushed the Williams team to work even harder. “It meant a lot to try to prove that Williams is the better school not only athletically but also academically,” Clarke said.

The episode will air on NESN on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. Although the results are confidential until that point, Vola ensured that her team  “put it all on the line” and “brought their A-game against Amherst.”

With the quiz competition under wraps, the second film crew focused exclusively on conducting interviews for The Biggest Little Game in America documentary. With a long and storied history, the Williams-Amherst football rivalry stands as the most played in NCAA Div. III history and the fourth most played throughout all three NCAA divisions. As of 2012, the Ephs lead the Jeffs 71-50-5 overall.

Former Head Coach Dick Farley, who is a major reason why the Ephs lead the tally, was one of those interviewed. Farley guided the Ephs for 17 years as head football coach starting in 1987 and also as assistant coach for many years prior. Under his leadership, the Ephs posted an era of domination against the rival Jeffs, at one point going 12 years without once losing to Amherst.

Farley mentioned that he appreciates the rivalry because Amherst is similar to Williams in so many ways that it makes for a more personal and spirited game. “It shows the nation there is competitive football in Div. III, where the kids go to school, graduate and become successful in all facets of life,” he said. “It’s the way the game is supposed to be played.”

Despite the lack of a postseason or bowl games, Farley thinks the Williams-Amherst game encompasses much of that would-be excitement. “Does it bother me that there isn’t postseason?” Farley said. “No matter what we did after the Amherst game, there wouldn’t be that much enthusiasm.”

Other interviewees included team doctor and Amherst alum Jim Parkinson, current football Head Coach Aaron Kelton, President Falk and 1963 co-captain Ben Wagner ’64, who was responsible for the celebration of his teammate Mike Reily ’64, whose No. 50 jersey was retired last year (“Tim Layden ’78 brings lifelong love of sports to SI pages,” Nov. 9).

The senior football captains also participated in the documentary. Tri-captain Peter Christiani ’13 thought the NESN documentary would help those not familiar with both institutions grasp a better understanding of the history and meaning behind this special rivalry. “For anyone who is directly related to Williams or Amherst, they know how important the rivalry is,” he said. “But for those who are not directly affiliated with the schools, [the documentary] will give them an opportunity to see what it is like. It is great for the notoriety of both schools, and I think it is well deserved, seeing as both institutions are so successful academically and athletically.”

At one point during the interview, Christiani was asked if Williams would still be playing Amherst in 100 years. “Of course.” he replied. “As long as there is football, Williams will play Amherst.”

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