Football falls 23-20 to Amherst in season finale

Football (4-4) closed its season with a disappointing 23-20 loss to Amherst last Saturday. The defeat placed Williams in sixth place in the NESCAC standings and gave Amherst the Little Three Championship title.

“Our team played well, but not well enough to win,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said. “We needed to make a few more plays to pull out a victory.”

The men started the game strong, taking full advantage of great field position early in the game. Receiving the ball at the Amherst 39-yard line four minutes into the game, quarterback Tom Murphy ’15 needed only one play to score. Murphy launched a strike to tri-captain Darren Hartwell ’13 for the go-ahead touchdown, and Joe Mallock ’14 added the extra point to bring Williams to a 7-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, the Jeffs responded with a 50-yard drive, capped with a two-yard run by mobile quarterback Max Lippe. Jake Schmidt came on to nail the extra point and tied the game at 7-7. The Ephs retaliated near the close of the quarter with a score of their own, using some misdirection to reach the endzone. Murphy handed the ball off to runningback Marco Hernandez ’14, who then lobbed a pass to a wide-open Hartwell. Although defenders scrambled to cover him, Hartwell easily cradled the pass for his second score of the game, and Mallock’s PAT put Williams ahead 14-7.

During the second quarter, a Jeffs’ field goal was immediately followed with a 37-yard field goal by Mallock, which brought the game to 17-10 in favor of the Ephs. At the end of the half, the men drove down the field, threatening to score yet again, but Murphy threw an interception to end the drive.

“On offense, I thought we did a good job of moving the ball up and down the field and making some big plays,” Hartwell said. “However, we definitely failed to capitalize on good field position and key scoring chances.”

The second half began with James Howe ’16 landing on an Amherst fumble, giving Williams great field position on their opening drive of the half. The Ephs were not able to penetrate the endzone, but Mallock added a 20-yard field goal to put the Ephs ahead 20-10 just minutes into the third quarter.

The Williams defense held strong throughout the third quarter, but the offense was unable to give the defense much time to rest, with only one first down during the remainder of the quarter. Eventually, the Jeffs’ offense garnered some momentum, scoring on the opening play of the fourth quarter on a pass to James Durham. Schmidt’s PAT narrowed the Ephs’ lead to 20-17. On their very next drive, the Jeffs again found the endzone, this time on a two-yard rush by Lippe. However, Schmidt missed the extra point, giving the Ephs hope as they only trailed 23-20.

Williams nearly tied the game on the very next drive, but Mallock narrowly missed a 47-yard game-tying field goal with eight minutes to go in the game. Amherst then initiated a long march down the field, lasting six minutes and stretching 61 yards. However, the defense forced a turnover on downs on the Ephs’ 10-yard line, giving the men one last chance to tie or win the game.

Murphy began moving the ball down the field, but a late hit knocked him out of the game. Adam Marske ’14 was left to finish the drive and found Jeff Brewington ’14 for a 13-yard gain before throwing four incomplete passes. A fortunate pass interference call on fourth down extended the Williams drive, but Amherst’s Jaymie Spears intercepted a pass intended for Hartwell, crushing any last hope for the Ephs. The Jeffs took a knee to run out the clock, and the Ephs finished their season with a 23-20 loss to their most heated rivals.

“[Saturday’s] loss was a tough one. To give Amherst credit, they put together a great effort in the second half and never gave up even when they were trailing,” Hartwell said.

Murphy finished the day with 179 yards and a touchdown, and Hartwell snagged six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Tri-captain Chris Cameron ’13 led the Ephs with eight solo tackles and one sack.

“It was great to see Darren Hartwell and Chris Cameron have big games for us,” tri-captain Peter Christiani ’13 said. “They have had two amazing careers and it was only fitting that they could have success one more time.”

The team graduates 17 seniors this year, including Cameron, Christiani and Hartwell. Hartwell broke the school record for most career touchdown receptions this season, closing his career with 21 touchdown receptions.

“I am so proud and honored to have coached this group of seniors; they are great players and even better people,” Kelton said.

“Although our season didn’t end the way we had hoped, I couldn’t ask for a better four years playing football at Williams,” Hartwell said. “The players, coaches and everyone else involved in our program are truly special, and I’m very thankful I got the opportunity to be a part of this team.”