Still undefeated, football beats Wesleyan 25-0 at Homecoming

Joe LaRocca, Sports Information

Football extended its undefeated season with a resounding victory over Wesleyan. (Photo courtesy of Sports Information.)

Football is 8–0 after a 25-0 shutout of the Wesleyan Cardinals (6–2), in which the Ephs racked up 290 total rushing yards and prevented the Cardinals offense from reaching the red zone for the entirety of the game.

Last Saturday’s Homecoming victory marked the first time the Ephs have been 8–0 since 2010. Due to the NESCAC’s expansion to a 9-game season in 2017, Williams has the opportunity to advance to 9–0 next week for the first time in the school’s history.

“This feels great,” head coach Mark Raymond said following the win. “I’m so proud of the players and coaches for their phenomenal effort and focus this whole season.”

Against the Cardinals’ formidable offense, the Ephs allowed zero total points. While the offense got off to a slower start than usual and ended up with its lowest scoring game of the season, the defense put the clamps down on the Cardinals’ offense; the Ephs limited dual-threat quarterback David Estevez — who had rushed for an even 400 yards in the last three games — to 80 rushing yards, 90 passing yards, and no scores.

“Our guys kept everything in front of them,” Raymond said. “We were able to keep [Estevez] on the run, and keep him contained. They just did a fantastic job.”

The Cardinals and Ephs each went three-and-out to start the game, and the Cardinals were forced to punt once again after converting the first third down of the game on a pass from Estevez to wide receiver Zyaire Sterling. Joel Nicholas ’23 sparked the Ephs’ offense with a 21-yard run to start their next drive, but Wesleyan defensive lineman Nick Helig sacked Eph quarterback Bobby Maimaron ’21.5 in the red zone to force a third-and-long that resulted in a Ivan Shuran ’25 field goal from 36 yards out.

Wesleyan kick returner Liam Kennedy ran the ensuing kickoff from about five yards deep in the end zone but was tackled at the 7-yard line, setting the Cardinals up with suboptimal field position. Though the Cardinals drove all the way into Eph territory, they elected to punt on 4th-and-5 from the 43, giving the Ephs the ball back at their own 20-yard line.

On a 3rd-and-8 to open up the Ephs’ next drive, Maimaron connected with wide receiver Frank Stola ’21.5. The Ephs, however, missed an opportunity later in the drive when a 35-yard Maimaron touchdown run was called back due to an illegal blindside block penalty, which was enforced at the 2-yard line. On 3rd-and-5, Nicholas ran up the middle for no gain, forcing another Shuran field goal attempt, which he knocked through the goal posts to make it a 6-0 game.

The Cardinals once again faced a 4th-and-medium in Eph territory and decided to punt once again after unsuccessfully trying to draw the Ephs offsides on a hard count. From their own 11, Maimaron led the Ephs on another long drive, but another sack — this time by Wesleyan defensive lineman Jackson Eighmy — forced the Ephs into settling for yet another field goal. Shuran made his third attempt of the afternoon to put the Ephs up 9-0 at halftime.

“We did great moving the football [in the first half], but Wesleyan’s a really good defensive team, so as things get tighter in there, they can play a lot closer,” Raymond said about the offense’s redzone performance. “We didn’t come through with seven, but we came away with points, which was the much more important thing.”

Despite the struggles in the red zone, however, the Ephs offense and defense came out firing in the second half.

On a pivotal 3rd-and-7 play at the beginning of the second half, quarterback Maimaron took the snap, rolled out to the right, and saw tight end Justin Burke ’21.5 wide open near the right sideline. After making the catch at the Wesleyan 40-yard line, Burke ran untouched into the end zone to score the first touchdown of the day and give Williams a 15-0 lead.

Though the ensuing extra point by kicker Shuran was blocked, the damage had already been done. Wesleyan, in the unfamiliar position of being down two scores, faced a fourth down on their next possession. Estevez attempted to punt the ball, but the punt glanced off the helmet of a Cardinal offensive lineman and bounced out of bounds at the Wesleyan 39-yard line. After a field goal by Shuran, the Ephs’ defense forced another punt, and running back Nicholas took over from there.

To begin the fourth quarter, Nicholas took the handoff from the Wesleyan 39-yard line and broke through a hole in their defense. Once he reached the second level, Nicholas was corralled by three Cardinal defenders, but, with help from his offensive line, managed to drag them nearly ten yards to the Wesleyan 17-yard line. On the very next play, Nicholas found another opening, cut to the right, and sprinted toward the pylon until cutting back at the last second to evade Cardinal cornerback Danny Banks. After getting by Banks, Nicholas jumped into the end zone to extend the Ephs’ lead even further, with Shuran’s extra point making it a 25-0 game.

On their next drive, the Cardinals managed to convert a 4th-and-10 on an impressive diving catch by tight end Liam Downey, but could not convert the next 4th down. The Ephs responded with a drive that ate nearly nine of the ten remaining minutes on the clock, effectively icing the game.

After scoring on each of their four red zone possessions last week against Trinity, the Ephs had to settle for field goals on all three of their first-half red zone trips. But the defense more than did its part, preventing the Cardinals from entering the red zone for the entirety of the game despite not forcing any turnovers.

Nicholas played another spectacular game, picking up 176 yards on 26 carries (6.8 YPC) and consistently making chunk plays. Maimaron also enjoyed an excellent game on the ground, rushing for 127 yards on 16 attempts (8.0 YPC); he also completed 7 of 16 passes for 155 yards (9.7 YPA), including the long 77-yard touchdown to Burke.

Estevez was once again the engine of the Wesleyan offense, and was responsible for 170 of the Cardinals’ 212 total yards. Helbig contributed 2.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss, consistently disrupting the Williams offense throughout the game.

Next week, football will travel to Amherst (5–3) to play its final game of the season.