All's Well That Ends Well: Football Downs Williams
Issue   |   Wed, 11/13/2013 - 00:46
Rob Mattson, Public Affairs Office
Defensive lineman Max Lehrman '15 celebrates the Jeffs' victory over the Ephs, a win largely made possible by the efforts of the Amherst defense.

With a 20-7 victory at Williams on Saturday, the Amherst Football team ended their 2013 season in style, securing a share of the NESCAC Championship.

With only one loss on the season (7-1), the Jeffs finished tied with Middlebury and Wesleyan for the best record in the conference.

The Cardinals entered the weekend undefeated and had a chance to earn sole possession of the NESCAC title. Unfortunately for them, a loss at Trinity dropped them into three-way tie and allowed the Jeffs and Panthers to share the honor.

For Amherst, the title marks the program’s second in the past three years. After a near-miss 2012 season, a young 2013 team rebounded in convincing fashion.

While the Jeffs’ youth certainly bodes well for the squad going forward, the Class of 2014 will undoubtedly be missed. This group of seniors put together a 27-5 overall record in four years, including an undefeated 8-0 season in 2011.

Fortunately, they can leave the program on a high note after dispatching their rivals in their final game. Early on, it appeared that the group might stumble to the finish line instead. Perhaps succumbing to the pressure of NESCAC title aspirations, Amherst was sluggish out of the gate. Facing a relatively porous Williams defense, the Jeffs struggled to string together any success and went three-and-out twice in the first quarter alone.

Luckily for Amherst, though, their rivals had even more trouble finding their offensive rhythm. The Ephs were unable to get past midfield in the entire half, as Amherst’s defense put together a valiant effort.

Given multiple opportunities, the Jeffs began to capitalize on their defensive success in the second quarter. Finally settling down, quarterback Max Lippe ’15 orchestrated an 11-play, 78-yard drive that put the Jeffs on the board.

Much of the damage on the possession came along the ground as Amherst put together two big runs that kept the chains moving. Sophomore Jackson McGonagle was responsible for one of those, gaining 17 yards on a fourth-down trick play to keep the drive alive.

Three plays later, Lippe followed suit by keeping the ball himself and rumbling for 23 yards to put Amherst inside the five yard line. First-year running back Nick Kelly took over from there, sneaking through the line of scrimmage for a three yard touchdown run that gave the Jeffs a 7-0 lead.

Building on that momentum, Amherst added another touchdown on their next possession. Taking over at their own 33-yard line, the Jeffs methodically worked upfield as Lippe turned to the passing game. The junior completed six of nine attempts on the drive for 56 yards, including a six-yard touchdown strike that Brian Ragone ’16 hauled in to give Amherst a 14-point cushion heading into the half.

Unfortunately for Amherst, that momentum did not continue into the second half. Instead, the Ephs came out of the intermission firing on all cylinders and began cutting into their deficit.

A 76-yard touchdown pass from Mark Pomella to Richie Beaton put Williams on the board early in the quarter. Beaton snuck behind the Amherst defense on the first play from scrimmage, streaking into the endzone for the score.

Facing pressure once again, the Jeffs did not flinch this time. Instead, the offense responded with a successful drive of its own. Looking to the ground, Amherst bullied its way into the Williams red zone behind the strength of solid runs from Kelly and Lippe. The Williams defense was up to the challenge, though, and stopped the Jeffs at the 17-yard line, forcing Amherst to settle for a field goal.

Senior kicker Phillip Nwosu came on for the attempt and threaded the 34-yarder through the uprights to push Amherst’s lead to 17-7. With both teams buckling down on defense, that score would hold through the end of the quarter.

Looking to mount a fourth quarter comeback, Williams marched downfield with confidence to begin the period. The Ephs made their way to the Amherst 27-yard line before getting stopped by a strong defensive effort.

Settling for the field goal, Williams brought their kicker out for the 46-yard attempt. The kick sailed wide left, however, and prevented the Ephs from inching any closer.

To their credit, though, Williams did not relent. Needing a stop, their defense stepped up, forcing an Amherst three-and-out on the next possession to give the ball right back to their offense.

With the clock now a concern, Williams turned to the passing game. Quarterback Adam Marske took over, trying to lead a comeback, but instead sent his initial attempt straight into the hands of Amherst’s Jaymie Spears ’16. The interception killed the Ephs momentum and gave Amherst the ball at the Williams 32-yard line.

Taking advantage of this field position, Amherst worked its way inside the Williams red zone before turning to Nwosu once again. The senior was successful with his 33-yard field goal attempt, giving the Jeffs a 20-7 cushion and effectively icing the game.

Williams did threaten to score on their final drive of the game, but a fumble from Marske gave the ball back to the Jeffs with two minutes remaining in the quarter. Taking over for the final time, Amherst kept the ball on the ground and ran out the clock to seal the win.

With the victory, Amherst earned their third-consecutive triumph against their rivals. The streak marks the team’s longest since winning six straight from 1981-1986.

Head coach E.J. Mills improved his record to 101-35 in his 17 years at Amherst. He will return next year and surely make a further addition to the Jeffs’ pedigree of success.

As returning NESCAC co-champions, the Jeffs will certainly have a target on their backs. But, with an offseason of hard work and a core of young players, this team’s future is certainly bright.