Football Ends Season On a High Note, Defeats Williams 28-3
Issue   |   Tue, 11/15/2016 - 21:27
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Senior Alex Berluti threw for two touchdowns in his final collegiate game.

In the 131st meeting of the “Biggest Little Game in America”, the Amherst football team scored 28 unanswered points to notch a 28-3 victory over archrival Williams Saturday, Nov. 12 at Pratt Field on homecoming weekend.

This win snaps Amherst football’s three-game losing streak and concludes their season at 4-4 overall. Both rival teams faced particularly disappointing seasons after losing significant talent on the field, with Williams finishing its 2016 campaign 0-8 — the first time the Ephs have gone winless in a season since 1947.

The two teams went back and forth quickly at the start of the game after Amherst forced Williams to punt on the opening possession and then the Ephs intercepted a pass from the hands of purple and white quarterback Alex Berluti ’17. The interception at the 43-yardline gave the Ephs a short field to work with. Williams responded with an eight-play, 38-yard drive, highlighted by an 11-yard completion to that helped set up a 22-yard field goal attempt. The Ephs secured the short field goal with ease, grabbing their first and only lead of the game.

Senior Devin Boehm returned the ensuing kickoff nine yards to the Amherst 31-yardline and on the first play, Jack Hickey ’19 broke free for a 30-yard run down the left sideline. Two plays later, Nick Morales ’19 found Boehm for a 25-yard scoring play as the purple and white took a 7-3 lead with 6:44 remaining in the first quarter.

After exchanging punts on the following possession, Williams picked up a first down and 10 at its own 44-yard line before Zach Allen ’19 forced a fumble that was recovered by Drew Bryant ’18 at the Ephs’ 45-yardline. Amherst could not capitalize on the turnover, however, and was forced to punt as the drive extended into the start of the second quarter.

Midway through the second frame, the Ephs started deep in their own territory. Amherst forced yet another Ephs’ turnover when, Nate Tyrell ’19 picked off a pass at the Ephs’ 40-yardline for a 24-yard return. After the Williams defense held tough and forced a 32-yard field goal try, Amherst attempted a fake field goal but Craig Carmilani ’18 was stripped and the ball was recovered by the Ephs at the Williams 40-yardline, keeping the score at 7-3 with 4:45 to play in the first half.

The Ephs had their first real offensive try since the opening plays of the game when they marched down the field nearing the end of the first half. Williams was sitting on the seven-yard line and marching forward, slowly looking for a score before John Callahan ’19 then stuffed the Ephs’ quarterback for a one-yard loss. Callahan followed this by halting the Williams running back in his tracks for a two-yard loss on fourth down to cement Amherst’s crucial defensive stand as the purple and white ended the first half with a four-point lead.

On Amherst’s first drive of the second half, Morales hit first-year James O’Regan for an 11-yard completion, and then picked up four yards on the ground setting up a second-and-six from the purple and white’s own 45-yardline. Morales then launched a 55-yard pass to Boehm who slipped a defender and found the end zone, giving Amherst a 14-3 advantage.

The Amherst defense forced Williams into a three-and-out on its next possession but the Ephs were able to pin the hosts deep. The purple and white were cool when faced with the open field, however, as Morales connected with Boehm for 17 yards, and Alex Berluti then hit Nick Widen ’17 for a huge, 56-yard completion down the left sideline giving Amherst the ball at the Ephs’ 14-yardline. Alex Berluti then completed a 14-yard pass to his brother Bo Berluti ’19 at the 8:07 mark of the third quarter as Amherst took a commanding, 21-3 lead.

The defense once again came through for Amherst on Williams’ next drive when senior linebacker Evan Boynton intercepted a ball at the Ephs’ 45-yardline to give Amherst good field position. Three plays later, Alex Berluti connected with his brother Bo Berluti for the second time in the quarter, this one for a 31-yard touchdown as the purple and white pushed their advantage to 28-3 with 5:53 to play in the third quarter.

Entering the final stanza, both defenses held tight as Williams forced Amherst into a pair of punts. Not to be outdone, the purple and white also forced a pair of Ephs’ punts, and induced two turnovers with senior Niyi Odewade notching a drive-ending sack and forcing a William’s wide receiver out-of-bounds on a fourth-and-six play on Williams’ final drive of the game to help seal the 28-3 victory.

On offense, Morales and Alex Berluti both had two touchdowns and went 9-11 for 138 yards and 10-14 for 118 yards, respectively. Hickey led the team in rushing with 31 yards on just three carries. Boehm ends his collegiate career by once again leading the team in receiving with 97 yards and two touchdowns. Bo Berluti tacked on an additional two scores with his five catches for 68 yards.

Defensively, Parker Chapman ’17 led the purple and white, registering a career-high 15 tackles while Andrew Yamin ’19 collected nine tackles. Callahan, Paul Johnson ’17, Odewade and Isaiah Holloway ’17 each added seven tackles, while Nick Ulanoff ’18 and Markel Thomas ’18 registered sacks for a loss of 12 and 10 yards respectively.

Williams now leads the all-time series, 71-55-5, but Amherst has now won six straight meetings between the rivals. The purple and white completes its 2016 campaign with a 4-4 overall record for the first time since 2007, and just the third time overall under head coach E.J. Mills. The class of 2017 finished their careers with an impressive, 27-5 overall record that included a share of the NESCAC title in 2013, outright titles in 2014 and 2015 and back-to-back 8-0 seasons in 2014 and 2015.