Lord Jeffs Clinch Share of NESCAC Title with 23-12 Win Over Trinity

QB Alex Vetras has Amherst sitting at 7-0 for the
first time since 2001.

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College football team played host to NESCAC rival Trinity College this afternoon for a pivotal conference tilt on Family Weekend. The Lord Jeffs trailed 9-0 at the end of the opening quarter but out-scored the Bantams 23-3 the rest of the way for a 23-12 win.

The victory improves Amherst to 7-0 for the first time since 2001, and clinches at least a share of the 2009 NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2000. The win also snaps a seven-game losing streak against Trinity, and sets Amherst up for the sixth undefeated—and third 8-0—season in program history.

The Amherst defense was the difference in the second half, as the Trinity offense picked up only two first downs in the final 30 minutes. After Trinity senior running back Oliver Starnes rushed for 105 yards in the first half, he picked up only a dozen yards in the second stanza.

Senior Brandon Quinn (Atlanta, GA) led Amherst’s defensive effort with 15 total tackles (six solo), one sack and four pass break-ups. Mike Taylor (Evanston, IL) added another 11 tackles, while junior Jeff Katz (Cheshire, CT) had a pair of sacks to go with his seven tackles.

Junior quarterback Alex Vetras (Clyde Hill, WA) finished the day 21-of-38 passing for 252 yards, with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Aaron Rauh (Hudson, OH) was Amherst’s leading rusher with 51 yards on 17 carries, while three Amherst players pulled down four passes apiece.  

Trinity junior quarterback Craig Drusbosky completed 17 of 29 passes for 122 yards, throwing no touchdowns or interceptions. Winston Tuggle and Starnes each caught seven passes for 44 yards. Walter Fallas and Francois Auzerais each had nine tackles for the Bantams, while John Marinelli picked off a pair of passes to go along with three tackles and a sack. Mike O’Connor added an interception and had five tackles.

Amherst started the first drive of the day on its own 40-yard line after Trinity booted the opening kickoff out of bounds. The Lord Jeffs went three-and-out on the drive, forcing a punt from senior Matt Eberhart (Plano, TX). Trinity’s offense looked as though it would stall in its own end, but Starnes broke free through the right side of the line for a 48-yard dash. Amherst’s Kevin Ferber (Mahwah, NJ) chased down Starnes from behind for a touchdown-saving tackle at the 11-yard line. The Bantams settled for a 22-yard field goal from Trinity’s Tim Costello, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead just 3:11 into the game.

After another three-and-out for the Jeffs, Starnes and the Trinity running game went to work from their own 47-yard line. The Bantams repeatedly used a direct snap to Starnes during a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive capped by a Ben Sherry run to the left side. Amherst’s Brady Benelli (Braintree, MA) blocked the ensuing point-after attempt, leaving the Bantams with a 9-0 advantage.

On the ensuing kickoff, Trinity was backed up 15 yards for an excessive celebration penalty on the touchdown. Costello once again knocked the kickoff out of bounds, giving Amherst possession at the Trinity 45-yard line. The Jeffs moved the ball all the way to the 26 with some help from another personal foul on Trinity, before running back Eric Bunker (Topsfield, MA) was picked off in the end zone on a halfback option heave. Trinity’s Marinelli snagged the interception, handing the ball back to the Bantams at their own 20 on the touchback.

Amherst forced a punt, bringing the Lord Jeff offense onto the field with a chance to close the gap. Amherst moved the ball well on its fourth drive of the day, needing just over three minutes of game time to set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Vetras to sophomore wide-out Will Reed (Riverside, CT). Reed snagged the pass on the two-yard line, before diving forward for paydirt with two Bantam defenders hanging on him. The score with 13:07 to play in the second quarter closed the margin to 9-7.

Senior Brandon Quinn led the Amherst defense with 15 tackles.

After the Bantams and Lord Jeffs traded punts, Trinity extended its lead to 12-7 on a 29-yard field goal by Costello. After a solid return on the following kickoff by Femi Oyalowo (Bowie, MD), Vetras found junior Andre Gary (Exeter, NH) for a 29-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline to the Trinity 36. Amherst was unable to pick up another first down or move into field goal range, and was forced to punt the ball away.

Amherst forced Trinity into a 4th-and-long situation and called a timeout with the Bantams ready to punt with just 0:27 remaining in the half. After letting the punt settle to a dead ball, Amherst took the ball at its own 37-yard line with 0:17 to work. Vetras found Gary on the left side for a first down at the Trinity 48, leaving 0:12 to play. On the next play, Vetras was picked off by O’Connor while looking for Gary once again. The Bantams took a knee to head into the locker room still up 12-7.

On the first possession of the second half, Amherst cornerback Fran Florio (Staten Island, NY) took down Trinity quarterback Craig Drusbosky on a scramble to the left on third down to force a punt.  The two teams traded another pair of punts, with Amherst’s Gary starting the second Lord Jeff possession of the half with a nice return.  On first down, Vetras found junior Brian Murphy (Evanston, IL) for an 18-yard completion, before taking a late hit that resulted in an additional 15 yards for roughing the passer. Amherst kept the drive alive on fourth down with a completion from sophomore quarterback Brian McMahon (Basking Ridge, NJ) to junior receiver Sean Legister (Ossining, NY) over the middle. The Lord Jeffs settled for a 23-yard field goal attempt on fourth down, but Matt Rawson (Bethesda, MD) pushed the kick wide right.

The Bantams took possession on their own 20-yard line on the missed field goal, but Amherst forced a three-and-out and minus-seven yards on the drive. After taking the punt on a return to the Trinity 37-yard line, Vetras hit sophomore Andrew Reed (Riverside, CT) on a fly route for a touchdown that sent the Amherst stands into a frenzy. The Lord Jeffs failed on a two-point conversion attempt, leaving Amherst up 13-12 with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter.

The third quarter came to a close with Amherst in mid-drive after another Trinity punt. At the start of the fourth, the Lord Jeffs were looking at a 3rd-and-3 from the 50-yard line. Vetras hit Legister across the middle for the first down on a pick-up of five yards. Vetras took a pair of shots deep down the field during the next three plays, both times seeing the ball land harmlessly to the ground.

Eberhart dropped a long punt at the 15-yard line, where Trinity return man Harry Melendez muffed the catch. Lord Jeff sophomore Gordie Lockbaum (Worcester, MA) was there to pounce on the loose ball. Two plays later, Vetras found a wide-open Murphy in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown. With the extra point, Amherst took a 20-12 lead.

Over the next six minutes neither team was able to move the ball, with the Jeffs taking over possession with 6:34 to play. Amherst gave Trinity a healthy dose of Rauh on the drive, eating 4:23 off the clock before Rawson kicked a 28-yard field goal to give Amherst a 23-12 lead. Trinity moved the ball into Amherst territory on the ensuing possession, but time ticked off as the Bantams had no timeouts remaining.

The Lord Jeffs will travel to face archrival Williams next Saturday in “The Biggest Little Game in America” at 12 p.m. for the outright NESCAC and Little Three titles.