Amherst Ends Season with 31-16 Loss to Williams

Alex Vetras
Amherst made a valiant effort in its final game of the 2010 season.

AMHERST, MA – Williams College quarterback Pat Moffitt ’11 threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to J.C. Stickney ’12 with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter to close the books on the 125th football game in Amherst-Williams history. The Ephs’ 31-16 win Saturday at Pratt Field capped off their seventh 8-0 season, while the Lord Jeffs end the year at 6-2.

The teams were knotted at 10-10 at halftime, but Williams scored the only seven points of the third quarter and outscored the Jeffs by a 14-6 margin in the fourth. Moffitt finished with four touchdown passes and 326 yards, with Stickney accumulating 135 receiving yards and a pair of TDs.

Williams took a 71-49-5 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to 1884. Aaron Kelton became the first head coach in Williams history to begin his career with a perfect season, while Amherst head coach E.J. Mills moved to 80-32. The visiting team has won each of the past three meetings.

With 16 points on Saturday, Amherst set a program record for scoring average in a season. The 1957 squad averaged 34.75 points per game, but this year’s Jeffs scored an average of 35.8 per week.

Amherst senior quarterback Alex Vetras (Bellevue, WA) finished the day 20-of-46 for 226 yards, three interceptions and a touchdown. He ran his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 24, as he threw at least one in each of his collegiate starts. He also tied the program record for touchdown passes in a season, matching the 16 thrown by Rick Murphy ’73 (1972), Mike Newman ’78 (1977), Paul Foye ’83 (1982) and Rich Willard ’98 (1997).

Saturday’s game featured one of the largest crowds at Pratt Field in recent history, and the fans could not have asked for better weather for mid-November. With clear skies above and temperatures hitting the low 60s, Amherst’s Homecoming set the perfect stage for the NESCAC’s two most explosive offenses.

The Lord Jeffs scored on the game’s opening drive when a seven-play, 52-yard series was capped off by a 27-yard field goal from Matt Rawson ’12 (Bethesda, MD). His ninth field goal of 2010 set a new single-season program record, surpassing the previous mark that he had shared with David Bodner ’05 (2002).

Williams would take advantage of a 10-yard Rawson punt by scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 2:41 remaining in the opening quarter. The Ephs had a short field to work with, allowing Moffitt to connect with Stickney in the endzone for 15 yards. Chris Cleary ’12 added the extra point to give the visitors a 7-3 lead.

Williams took charge of the game in the second half.

The quarterbacks would combine for three interceptions in the first quarter, but the only one that led to points came when Vetras was picked off by Dan O’Mara ’12. On the second play of the ensuing drive Moffitt hit Darren Hartwell ’13 for a 37-yard gain, as the first quarter closed with Williams threatening in the red zone. The Ephs would get down to the 1-yard line, but a false start penalty pushed them back and they settled for a 23-yard field goal from Cleary to take a 10-3 lead.

After an Amherst three-and-out, Williams had a 78-yard drive come to a halt when Amherst inside linebacker Brandon Quinn ’11 (Atlanta, GA) forced a Ryan Lupo ’11 fumble on 4th-and-2 from the 5-yard line, allowing Kevin Heller ’12 (Brooklyn, NY) to scoop up the loose ball and hand possession back to the Jeffs.

Amherst capitalized on the Williams fumble by putting together a 17-play, 97-yard scoring drive that tied the game at 10-10 with only 47 seconds left in the first half. Highlighting the drive was a 4th-and-2 situation that saw Mike Samela ’12 (Westport, CT) complete a pass to tight end Charlie Pratt ’11 (Kenilworth, IL), whose fourth catch of the day put the hosts at the Williams 20-yard line. After a 19-yard run from Vetras, Eric Bunker ’12 (Topsfield, MA) finished things off with his ninth rushing touchdown of the season and Rawson added another point to bring the score to 10-10, which is where things stood at halftime.

The only points of the third quarter came on the Ephs’ first drive, with Moffitt hitting tight end Jon Carroll ’11 for a two-yard touchdown pass. A 37-yard completion to Stickney highlighted the 82-yard drive, and Cleary provided the PAT to make it a 17-10 game.

Williams added to its lead early in the fourth quarter. Facing 3rd-and-8 from their own 46, they picked up a big first down when Moffitt found Tomas Kearney ’12 on the sideline. The Jeffs argued that the receiver did not get both feet inbounds, but they had bigger things to worry about when Moffitt connected with a wide-open Hartwell for a 33-yard score on the very next play. Cleary brought the score to 24-10 with 12:59 to go.

Amherst punched right back by coming up with several big plays during a 63-yard scoring drive that made it a one-possession game. Vetras hit Ben Kettering ’12 (Fairmont, WV) for 21 yards on 3rd-and-13 and then took it himself on 3rd-and-18, leaping into a pile of Williams defenders to muscle his way for the first down at the Eph 20-yard line. The next play was a pass to Will Reed ’12 (Riverside, CT), who picked up the ball at the last moment to make a diving catch in the endzone. Rawson’s extra point attempt rattled the left post, though, leaving the Jeffs in a 24-16 hole with 9:42 remaining in regulation.

Charlie Pratt '11 caught five passes for 26 yards.

The Jeffs came up with a big stop on 4th-and-inches during the Ephs’ next drive, but they soon turned the ball back over on downs and could not take advantage of the defensive stand. The Ephs then picked up three quick first downs on three consecutive running plays, forcing Amherst to stop the clock with a timeout. Immediately out of the timeout, Moffitt threw his 26-yard touchdown pass to Stickney and silenced the Homecoming crowd with only 3:26 on the board. Another Cleary PAT brought the score to 31-16.

The Williams momentum continued when Dan Canina ’11 sacked Vetras on Amherst’s first play of the ensuing drive, and the Jeffs would soon turn the ball over on downs thanks to outstanding pass coverage by Ben Oliva ’12. The Ephs took over with 2:12 to play and Moffitt was able to end the season by taking a knee.

Lupo led all running backs with 128 yards on 33 carries, while Vetras led the Jeffs with 33 rushing yards on nine attempts. In addition to Stickney’s 135 yards, Hartwell caught seven balls for 116 yards. Andre Gary ’11 (Exeter, NH) was Amherst’s top receiver with four catches and 60 yards. The Ephs held a 504-317 edge in total yards and convincingly won the possession battle in the second half, 19:27 to 10:33.

Amherst’s Sam Clark ’13 (Andover, MA) and the Ephs’ Dylan Schultz ’11 led their respective teams with 13 tackles apiece, while Evan Rosenstein ’12 (New Canaan, CT) and Jeff Katz ’11 (Cheshire, CT) each had 11 for the Jeffs. Heller and Landrus Lewis ’13 (Pennsauken, NJ) each intercepted Moffitt once, with Lewis also breaking up two other passes. The Ephs’ interceptions were hauled in by Chris Rudnicki ’11, O’Mara and Tyler Cole ’12, while Oliva broke up four passes.

Amherst’s seniors finished their careers with a 23-9 record. In three years as a starter, Vetras was 526-of-894 (58.9 percent) for 5,367 yards, 43 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Wide receiver Brian Murphy ’11 (Evanston, IL) caught 105 passes for 994 yards and nine touchdowns in his time, with Gary adding 77 receptions, 743 yards and six receiving touchdowns. Rounding out the outstanding group of receivers in the Class of 2011 is Sean Legister ’11 (Ossining, NY), who had 52 catches, 542 yards and five touchdowns.

The Lord Jeffs will also lose seven linemen to graduation next spring. Representing the O-line were Rick Morgan ’11 (Cleveland Heights, OH), Marcus Richtel ’11 (Castle Rock, CO), Pat Sugrue ’11 (Tewksbury, MA) and Pratt, who helped Amherst finish atop or tied atop the NESCAC in fewest sacks allowed in three consecutive years (2008-10). They also helped pave the way for running back Femi Oyalowo ’11 (Bowie, MD), who wraps up his career with six touchdowns and 760 yards on 172 carries (4.4 ypc), adding more than 100 receiving yards on 12 catches.

Representing the D-line are Tom Grossi ’11 (North Caldwell, NJ), Brady Benelli ’11 (Braintree, MA) and Isaac Rowner ’11 (West Hempstead, NY), who helped the Jeffs lead all of Division III in sacks per game in 2009. Benelli had a career-high five tackles in Saturday’s game.

Linebackers Katz and Quinn were two of the defenses most important players these past two years. A 2009 All-NESCAC selection, Katz had 95 tackles, 21.0 TFL and 11.5 sacks in only two seasons with Amherst. Quinn added more than 100 tackles in his time, including 70 as a junior before his 2010 season was shortened due to injury.

Also playing in their final games on Saturday were defensive backs Brian Merrigan ’11 (Holbrook, MA) and Nick Edwards ’11 (Greenwich, CT), who combined for five tackles against Williams. Edwards had 57 tackles and four interceptions in his final two seasons combined, adding six pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Rounding out the seniors is Dan Pozner ’11, who this year served as a student-assistant coach.