Football (2-6) fell short to Amherst 17-9 last Saturday in the first game ever played under the lights of the newly renovated Pratt Field in Amherst, Mass. The loss marked the final game of the 2014 season for the Ephs, falling to their archrival Jeffs in the “Biggest Little Game in America.” The Ephs finished the season 2-6 and will be scratching their heads and looking for answers going into the offseason.
The underdog Ephs played very well in the first half, especially on defense, holding the dynamic Jeffs to a mere 61 yards of total offense and preventing them from gaining a first down until deep in the second quarter. The Jeffs rallied, however, and put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half to take a lead that they would never relinquish.
On the first drive of the game, the Ephs marched efficiently down to the Jeffs 29-yard line, but the Jeffs stopped the drive in its tracks with an interception by Jaymie Spears. However, Amherst would not keep possession; Williams tri-captain Tom Cabarle ’15 forced a fumble that was recovered by Antonio Blanco ’15.
After an athletic catch and run by Mark Pomella ’16 to convert a third and 17 for Williams, placekicker Joe Mallock ’15 knocked home a 30-yard field goal to put the men on the board first, 3-0.
The teams’ punters got quite a workout for the remainder of the first half; Mallock for Williams and Jackson McGonagle for Amherst combined for eight consecutive punts. With 3:03 left in the half, the Jeffs took over at around midfield. After a pass interference penalty put them at the Williams 38-yard line, Lippe was finally able to connect with Gene Garay on a 16-yard reception for the Jeffs’ first offensive first down of the game. With that glass ceiling shattered, Amherst drove to the Williams 16-yard line where Lippe found Jackson McGonagle in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Despite some theatrics in the final minute by Williams looking for a possible score, the teams went into the half with the score 7-3, in Amherst’s favor. Prior to their last drive of the half, the Jeffs had only netted eight yards of total offense and had failed to gain a first down. In addition, Williams held the ball for 21:02 of the 30-minute quarter, a stunning disparity in time of possession. However, the Eph offense was never able take advantage of their defense’s superb play and consistently was forced to punt, rendering their stunning statistical advantage moot.
To the uninformed observer, it looked like two entirely different football teams came out of the locker rooms for the second half. Amherst, having shed its first half sloth, blazed down the field in a six-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a touchdown pass from Lippe to Garay, extending their lead to 14-3.
In response, Williams squeaked out a first down but was subsequently stopped decisively by the Amherst defense, forcing another Mallock punt. The Jeffs took advantage of the defensive stop with a slow and steady march down the field, in which they relied on the rushing of Raheem Jackson and Myles Gaines and a clutch 28-yard catch by Devin Boehm to put them inside the Williams five-yard line. The Eph defense clamped down, however, and the Jeffs settled for a 31-yard field goal by Phillip Nwosu.
After trading punts, Williams took over on their own 13-yard line with 13:14 remaining in regulation. After a fortuitous pass interference call moved them to the 27-yard line, the Ephs again barely gained a first down and this time were forced to try a fake punt. However, Pomella’s pass for punter Mallock went over his head and Amherst took over after the turnover on downs.
Thus began a somewhat bizarre series of turnovers; on the very first play of Amherst’s ensuing drive, Josh Helmkamp ’15 picked off Lippe’s pass. Then, on Williams’ third down try on the ensuing drive, Austin Lommen ’16 overthrew his intended receiver and the ball was tipped right into the hands of Ryan Duzyk, who returned the pick to the Williams 32-yard line. Yet only two plays later, Cabarle swooped in from his position at safety and picked off a surefire touchdown pass.
After all this, the Eph offense still couldn’t move the chains, and Mallock punted again. The Ephs forced the Jeffs to punt in turn, and this time the Ephs were able to execute on offense. Taking advantage of a screen pass to Lewis Hayes ’17 that netted 21-yards and a beautiful catch by Adam Regensburg ’18 on the two-yard line, tri-captain Alex Scyocurka ’15 was able to punch it in two plays later for the Ephs’ first touchdown of the game. However, Mallock’s extra point was blocked twice, once on the original try by Jaymie Spears and then, after an offside penalty gave him a rekick, by Chris Tamasi. Thus the score was 17-9 with 2:56 remaining in the game.
Williams attempted an onside kick but failed to recover, and Amherst was able to run out the rest of the clock, ending the game.
For the Ephs, Lommen went 24-39 (62%) for 197 yards and two interceptions. Pomella, the Ephs’ sometime quarterback now receiver, was actually the leading rusher, totaling 28 yards on eight carries, mostly out of the wildcat formation. Jean-Luc Etienne ’15 also contributed 27 yards on 12 touches. Regensburg led the Ephs in receiving with 31 yards receiving on five receptions.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cabarle led the Ephs with nine tackles, plus a forced fumble and an interception. Helmkamp also recorded an interception for Williams.
Williams closes their season with a 2-6 record, repeating their tally from last season and finishing tied with Bowdoin and Colby for seventh in the conference.
“Amherst was one of our best efforts all season,” Cabarle said. “The fact that we lost the game doesn’t necessarily reflect that but I couldn’t have been more proud of our guys.”
With the conclusion of its season, football will graduate Etienne, Blanco, Cabarle, Helemkamp, Mallock, Scyocurka, Etienne Aduya ’15, Ryan Barry ’15, Adam Datema ’15, Ayo Ekhator ’15, Mike Flynn ’15, Qadir Forbes ’15, David Gaines ’15, Griffin Hewitt ’15, Steven Kiesel ’15, Andre Lafontant ’15, Daniel Loughran ’15, Tom Murphy ’15, Ryan Prokesch ’15, Steven Servius ’15, AJ Walsh ’15, Mike Williams and tri-captain Alan Felix ’15.