Football Squeaks by Bates in Season Opener
Issue   |   Wed, 09/24/2014 - 01:05

In sports, it is often said that defense wins championships. For the Amherst football team, defense wins home openers. The Jeffs were triumphant in their first game, as they defeated the Bates Bobcats 14-6 on Saturday in large part due to their ability to stop the Bobcats on offense.

Bates remained scoreless until the fourth quarter, and the Jeffs’ defense limited the Bobcat offense to only 133 rush yards and 113 pass yards on the day. In addition, they intercepted Bates quarterback Matt Cannone three times and sacked him twice for losses.

Captain Chris Tamasi ’15 said that, as a defensive unit, the team “did a good job of playing sound responsibility football,” as each individual really took care of their responsibilities, which led to team success.

Amherst’s strong secondary had four members with over 10 tackles on the day as well. Tamasi led the team with 14 and co-captain Ned Deane ’15 had 12. Tamasi complimented Jaymie Spears ’16, Chris Gow ’16 and Ryan Duzyk ’15 by saying they, “all played great in the secondary. Each of them had key plays that factored into our success as a defense.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Amherst was able to find the back of the end zone twice to put away the Bobcats. In his first start for the Jeffs, Alex Berluti ’17 led the Jeffs’ offense with 190 of Amherst’s 215 passing yards and a touchdown to Gene Garay ’15 in the first quarter.

“I was definitely nervous leading up to the Bates game preparing for my first collegiate start, but felt that the coaches did a great job getting us ready for the game,” Berluti said.

The Jeff’s offense also found success on the ground thanks to Nick Kelly ’17 and Kenny Adinkra ’16, who combined for over 100 yards rushing.

Nerves seemed to be high throughout the first quarter for the Amherst and Bates offenses as turnovers and missed opportunities mounted.

Amherst received the ball on offense first and turned it over on the second play on a fumble by receiver Jackson McGonagle ’16. Deep into Amherst territory, the Bates offense hoped to capitalize and complted a first down to the Amherst 18-yard line.
The Jeffs defense ended up forcing a field goal attempt, which was assertively blocked by Spears. Pumped up by the stop, the Amherst offense returned to the field only to turn the ball over again, this time on an interception by Bates’ Ryan Newson.
Bates was unable to capitalize on the turnover, and once again the ball was in the hands of the Jeff’s offense. Reece Foy ’18 took control of the backfield as quarterback, moving the Jeffs to the Bates’ 33-yard line.

Looking to keep the drive alive, Coach E.J. Mills decided to go for it on 4th-and-two, but the Bobcats came up big, tackling Foy for a seven yard loss.

The Jeffs got the ball back to end the quarter, and Berluti strung together a couple of first downs to the Bates’ 21- yard line. Nerves aside, Berluti threw a beautiful pass to Garay, who caught the ball in the end zone to put Amherst up by seven.
Feeling more settled at the beginning of the second quarter, both teams secured the ball better, but were unable to put any points on the board. The Bobcats’ defense stopped all three of the Jeff’s drives in the second quarter. The Amherst defense successfully kept the Bates offense out of Amherst territory on every possession, ensuring the Jeffs’ a 7-0 lead at the half. The defensive line, “clogged holes all day long and put pressure on the quarterback, forcing him to get rid of the ball sooner than he would have liked,” Tamasi said.

The third quarter followed much like the second quarter — a defensive stalemate. Neither the Bobcats offense nor the Jeffs’ offense could get significant drives going, which led to punts on every possession in the third quarter.

In fact, it was not until the last 1:20 of the game that either team even got close to the end zone. With 1:47 left in the game, Bates’ punted the ball to Amherst for what the Jeffs’ hoped to be their last possession to run out the clock. With Garay deep in his own territory to return the punt, he received the ball and ran for seven yards before he was stripped by Bates’ Newson.
The Bobcats recovered the ball in amazing field position on the Amherst 35 yard line. Within a few seconds, Bates had driven to the Amherst two-yard line and had a fresh set of downs to work with. This would be the true test of the Amherst defense, as the game was on the line.

After stopping the running back Ivan Reese on first down, Bates’ Cannone snuck into the end zone to finally put Bates up on the board. Hungry for a win, the Bobcats lined up to go for the two point conversion.

Tamasi recalled this as the biggest moment of the game and said, “It became pretty clear to everyone on defense that this was the game — the season — on the line.”

Cannone dropped into a play action pass, and Paul Johnson ’17 was there to put the pressure on. A high throw went up in Gow’s direction, which he was able to tip to Duyzk, who made the interception, and kept the score at 7-6 in favor of the Jeffs.
With 1:16 to go, Bates was hoping to get another chance to win the game. The Bobcats’ special teams lined up for the onside kick, but the kick landed out of bounds and gave Amherst possession at the Bates 42-yard line.

The Amherst offense took the field, and on the first play of the drive, Kelly burst through the coverage on the sideline all the way to the end zone.

Berluti said that for him the moment was, “exhilarating and something I hope to see more of this year.”
The Jeffs defense secured the victory by stopping Bates’ last drive in its tracks.

Moving into week two of NESCAC play, the Jeffs hope to improve more on the offensive side of the ball and put more points on the board.

“As a unit it is critical that we protect the football and limit the amount of turnovers, which will then result in longer drives and more points, which is out main focus,” Berluti said.

The Jeffs will face Bowdoin, who was shut out by Williams 35-0 in their season opener. However, this game will be on the Polar Bears’ home turf and they will hope to get revenge on after last season’s 27-11 loss at the Jeffs’ hands last season. Even with a shaky first game on offense, the Jeffs still have the potential to make a real run for a NESCAC championship.

“If we are firing on all cylinders, I believe we are a difficult team to beat,” Tamasi said. “We need to have a great week of practice and prepare with urgency for Bowdoin.”

The Jeffs will head up to Brunswick Friday ahead of their game on Saturday at noon.