All's Well That Ends Well for Jeffs
Issue   |   Tue, 11/13/2012 - 22:24
Niahlah Hope '15, Public Affairs Office
Senior captains John Ceccio, Sam Clark, Landrus Lewis, Jack Reynolds and Lou Jacoubs head to midfield for the coin toss at the final game in Pratt Field’s illustrious history.

In front of a packed Homecoming crowd at Pratt Field, the Lord Jeffs finished their season with a victory over archrival Williams this past Saturday. Led by a solid performance from sophomore quarterback Max Lippe, Amherst mounted a thrilling fourth quarter comeback to squeeze out the 23-20 win and send alumni home happy. Amherst has now won three of the last four contests against their archrivals, though the overall head-to-head record still lies in favors of the Ephs, 71-51-3.

Early in this game, it looked as though Williams might add to that head-to-head advantage. Amherst got off to a slow start, sputtering on offense as they were forced into a three-and-out on their first possession. Taking advantage of great field position, Williams scored on the first play from scrimmage, as quarterback Tom Murphy found Darren Hartwell with a 39-yard touchdown pass. Incredibly, the drive lasted a mere eight seconds and gave the Ephs an early 7-0 lead.

Amherst, though, responded with a strong defensive stand of their own. Still trailing midway through the first quarter, defensive tackle Travis Dickenson ’13 forced and recovered a fumble to give the Jeffs another possession.

Capitalizing on the Williams miscue, Amherst’s offense finally came to life, building on the momentum from the turnover. First-year running back Sean Wilson began finding seams in the defense, which, in turn, opened up the passing game. After methodically working their way downfield in small gains, Lippe eventually found Jake O’Malley ’14 for a big play, connecting on a 17-yard pass that moved Amherst inside the 10-yard line. From there, Lippe chose to keep the ball himself, scoring from two yards out on the quarterback keeper and knotting up the score at seven apiece.

Keeping with the first quarter scoring barrage, Williams came right back to regain the lead. Aided by a 33-yard punt return after another Amherst three-and-out, Williams began their drive at the Jeffs’ 28-yard line. A pair of six-yard rushes set up an unorthodox 16-yard touchdown strike, thrown by running back Marco Hernandez on a fake rush, that put the Ephs up 14-7.

That score held through the end of the first, as both defenses began to lock down. The defensive effort continued through the second period as well, as each team was only able to muster a field goal. Williams nearly tacked on another score as the half came to a close, but a timely interception by senior cornerback Robbie Heflin ended the threat with less than 10 seconds left in the quarter. Amherst ran out the clock with their last possession and the score remain at 17-10, in favor of the Ephs, heading into the second half.

Making up for their turnover at the end of the second quarter, Williams came out of the half determined to execute more cleanly on offense. A pair of long runs put them deep into Amherst territory, looking for a touchdown. However, Amherst’s defense came up big once again, as Dickenson forced his second fumble of the afternoon.Williams running back Alex Scyocurka ’14 managed to recover the ball, but the near-turnover killed the Ephs’ momentum, forcing them to settle for a field goal. The kick gave Williams a 10-point advantage, 20-10, and that margin would hold through the end of the period.

Facing a 10-point deficit to start their final quarter of the season, the Jeffs knew they would have to dig deep to pull off a comeback. Fortunately for Amherst, Lippe made that job a lot easier by throwing a touchdown strike on the first play of the period. Capping a drive that began near the end of the third quarter, he found James Durham ’13 for an eight-yard pass that cut the deficit to three points.

Building off the renewed energy of the home crowd, Amherst’s defense stepped up, forcing a Williams three-and-out on the ensuing possession. With a chance to take the lead, the Jeffs’ offense got back to work. However, it appeared that the Ephs would get the stop they needed, as Amherst was forced to punt on fourth-and-nine early in the drive.

Fortunately for the Jeffs though, Williams committed a costly penalty on the play, roughing the kicker and giving Amherst new life with an automatic first down. Capitalizing on Williams’ mistake, Lippe found first-year wide receiver Brian Ragone with a 39-yard reception on third-and-13 that kept the chains moving and put Amherst deep inside the Ephs’ redzone. On the ensuing play, Lippe kept the ball himself, rushing in for his second touchdown of the day and sixth of the season. Fortunately for Williams though, kicker Jake Schmidt ’14 was unable to convert the extra point, allowing the Ephs to stay within a field goal of tying the game at 23-20.

That miscue, though, would not make a difference, as Williams’ two remaining offensive possession were fruitless. A missed field goal from 47 yards out and an interception would end up costing the Ephs and allow Amherst to escape with the victory.

The win marks a successful end to what has been a trying, but rewarding season for Amherst. Suffering through an injury to their top running back, Ryan Silva ’14, and an agonizing loss to Trinity, this team certainly played with a lot of heart. With a long offseason ahead of them, they will be looking to build on their successes in the hopes of competing for the NESCAC championship next year.