Football Tops Hamilton Behind Stellar Defense
Issue   |   Tue, 09/24/2013 - 23:22
Megan Robertson 15, Public Affairs Office
Quarterback Jonathan Pieterse ’16, who saw limited action Saturday, may take some key snaps against Bowdoin.

Opening its season at Hamilton, Amherst’s football team got its 2013 campaign off to a solid start with a 23-7 victory on Saturday. Behind a staunch defensive performance, the Jeffs put together an impressive effort, never trailing and running away with a comfortable win.

Coming off a 6-2 season in 2012, Amherst fell short of its NESCAC title aspirations. The team was inexperienced at quarterback and wide receiver and, as a result, relied heavily on the running game. But that is all set to turn around this year.

Max Lippe ’15 returns for his second year under center. The junior quarterback improved tremendously last season, throwing for over 1,000 yards with a respectable 59.9 completion percentage. According to head coach E.J. Mills, however, Lippe is even better prepared for his role as a leader this season.

“Max had a great end of the year,” Mills said. “[And] he’s worked extremely hard, and we think he’s ready to make the next leap.”

At wide receiver, Amherst returns five of six starters from last season. The loss of James Durham ’13 will hurt, but First-team All-NESCAC honoree Jake O’Malley ’14 headlines an experienced and skilled group.

On Saturday, though, Amherst did the majority of its damage without Lippe or O’Malley on the field. In fact, Amherst had a lead in hand before the offense touched the ball. That boost was a result of an impressive Danny Chun ’14 interception on the Continentals’ first drive of the game. Charging in from his outside linebacker spot, Chun got a piece of Colin Pastorella’s pass at the line of scrimmage, catching his own deflection and taking it back 22 yards for Amherst’s first points of the season.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, the Jeffs’ strong defense would continue. The Continentals’ second drive ended in the same fate as their first one, as Amherst’s Ned Deane ’15 picked off Chase Rosenberg’s first collegiate pass, one of five interceptions on the afternoon for the Amherst defense.

With the turnover, the Jeffs’ offense finally had a chance to showcase its skills. Behind three consecutive completions from Lippe, Amherst was looking at first-and-goal on the Hamilton 9-yard line. The Continentals’ defense held tough, however, forcing the Jeffs to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Phillip Nwosu ’15.

Amherst’s offense continued its roll later in the quarter. Going to the ground game, Amherst gave the ball to running back Kenny Adinkra ’16, who pounded the Hamilton defense. A Lippe scramble then got Amherst inside the Hamilton 20-yard line, but the Continentals’ defense came through once again. Amherst’s offense was kept from the end zone, but another field goal from Nwosu gave the Jeffs a 13-0 lead heading into the second quarter.

Building on that defensive stand, the Hamilton offense would strike back before intermission. Aided by an Amherst fumble on a punt attempt, the Continentals took advantage of outstanding field position to get on the board. Taking over at the Amherst 4-yard line, Hamilton gave the ball to running back Rico Gonzalez, who found the end zone to trim the Continentals’ deficit to six points.

With only a 13-7 cushion heading into the third quarter, Amherst’s offense looked to gain some breathing room in the second half. Unfortunately, they continued to have trouble finding the pay dirt. Lippe did appear to be gaining confidence, leading a 14-play, 90-yard drive early in the quarter that included a clutch fourth down conversion inside Hamilton territory. Looking for the end zone three plays later, though, his pass was intercepted, ending the threat and keeping Amherst from adding to its lead.

Fortunately, Amherst’s defense picked up the slack. They forced a turnover of their own, an interception by Jaymie Spears ’16 that was returned inside the Hamilton 10-yard line. The Amherst offense came out once again, but Adinkra’s three attempts on the ground were all stuffed, forcing the Jeffs to settle for another field goal.

With a two-possession lead in hand, Amherst’s defense closed the door on any Hamilton comeback hopes. The Continentals’ next two drives ended in an interception and a three-and-out, giving the Jeffs’ offense yet more chances to add to their cushion. Finally, they responded with a touchdown, as Lippe found sophomore receiver Brian Ragone on a slant route for a 32-yard strike that sealed the game.

On the afternoon, Ragone led the receiving corps, catching seven passes for 99 yards. Lippe threw for 162 yards through the air and one touchdown. Adinkra finished with 46 yards on 19 carries on the ground, while first-year running back Myles Gaines was impressive in limited action, gaining 40 yards on only five attempts, for a high average of eight yards per carry.

Following their successful opener, the Jeffs will play their first game at the newly renovated Pratt Field next Saturday. The team is set to host Bowdoin, who lost their season opener to Middlebury, 27-5, on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Polar Bears will come in with extra motivation, looking to put together some offense and pick up their first victory of the season. In the home opener, Amherst will have to be sharp to protect its new turf.