Football Set to Compete For NESCAC Title

EJ Millsaction.jpgContact: Ben Badua

(Courtesy of Megan Robertson '15)



Coming off an undefeated 8-0 campaign in 2011, Amherst extended its win streak to 10 with season-opening victories over Hamilton and Bowdoin. Firing on all cylinders, the Jeff run game was averaging 308.5 yards per outing thanks to an experienced offensive line.

Hitting a road-block at Middlebury, Amherst suffered its first setback of the season, falling to the Panthers, 24-3. Rebounding the following week, the Purple & White took care of Colby thanks to a stellar defensive effort that surrendered only three points while giving up just 27 yards rushing. Outlasting a previously unbeaten Wesleyan squad on the road (17-9), Amherst returned home for Family Weekend and scored a decisive 51-7 triumph over Tufts.

Playing well at Trinity, the Jeffs carried a 20-12 lead into the fourth quarter, but could not hold on against the eventual conference champions, falling 32-20. Closing out the season on Pratt Field, Amherst rallied past its archrival Williams, 23-20, ensuring the team a winning record on its natural turf (29-27-3) before the historic site underwent a major renovation during the offseason.

Inexperienced at the quarterback and wide receiver positions last season, Amherst relied on its offensive line and a strong running game early in the year before eventually settling into a balanced attack that produced 191.0 yards on the ground and 178.2 yards per game through the air in 2012. With a host of capable veterans back in the fold, Amherst will look to improve across the board, after scoring 24.6 points per game and ranking fourth in the league in total offense (369.2).

Offensive Line
Despite the losses of Jack Reynolds ’13 and perennial all-conference center John Ceccio ’13 to graduation, the Jeffs return three starters up front, led by two-time first-team All-NESCAC honoree Rob Wasielewski '14. A fixture at left tackle, the senior tri-captain leads a unit that has led the league in fewest sacks allowed in four of the last five seasons.

Anchoring the right side of the line are Scott Mergner ’15 and Jack MacLennan ’14, who each played an integral role in helping Amherst average nearly 200 yards per game on the ground with 13 touchdowns in 2012. Sophomore Jim Daniels, who saw limited action last year as a rookie could compete for an increased role, alongside veterans Max Silver ’14, Andy Dirks ’14, Colman Duggan ’15 and Kyle Rudolph ’15.

One of the team’s biggest question marks heading into last season, Amherst returns a trio of veterans who should benefit from last year’s experience. Winning the starting job as a sophomore, Max Lippe ’15 showed continued improvement throughout the season, finishing with a 59.9 completion rate and 1,053 yards (131.6 ypg) with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

Jonathan Pieterse ’16 saw significant time as a first-year, appearing in five games. Completing 64.3 percent of his pass attempts, he finished with a pair of touchdowns and one interception. Senior DJ Petropulos rounds out the Jeffs’ list of returning signal callers, having played in three games last season.

“Max had a great end of the year,” said head coach E.J. Mills, who enters his 17th season on the Amherst sidelines. “He’s worked extremely hard and we think he’s ready to make the next leap. Jon played a lot of football as a first-year and is a talented player and we have a lot of confidence in DJ as an athlete and competitor.”

running.jpgRunning Backs
Returning from an injury he suffered during the Tufts game, Tyler Jacobs ’15 headlines a stable of talented running backs who once again figure to play a prominent role in the Jeffs’ offensive scheme. The team’s leading returning rusher, he gained 227 yards from scrimmage (37.8 ypg) last season, averaging 3.8 yards per carry with a touchdown.

Seeing extended minutes late in the year, Kenny Aboagye-Adinkra ’16 and Sean Wilson ’16 should continue to develop after a pair of solid rookie campaigns. The Jeffs’ leading rusher at Trinity, Adinkra gained 63 yards on nine carries (7.0 ypc). Wilson enjoyed a breakout game against Williams, running for 127 yards on 21 touches (6.0 ypc), becoming Amherst’s first 100-yard rusher since week two against Bowdoin.

wide.jpgWide Receivers/Tight Ends
Entering last season without five of its leading six pass catchers, Amherst’s wide receiving corps remains largely intact in 2013, having only lost James Durham ’13 to graduation. First-team All-NESCAC honoree Jake O’Malley ’14 leads the group after hauling in a team-high 34 receptions last season, while averaging 54.3 yards per game and catching two touchdowns.

Wade McNamara ’14 also returns after finishing the year third on the team in catches (24), along with Gene Garay ’16 and Brian Ragone ’16, who combined to average over 65 yards per game last year. Fellow sophomores Adam Wallace and Jackson McGonagle could also factor into the mix along with several talented first-years including Brian O’Malley.

Filling in for an injured Tom Holahan ’13 at the end of the season, Will Tenneson ’14 projects to see significant minutes at tight end, while Henry Falter ’15 and Mike Johnson ’16 also bring experience to the position.

One of the team’s strengths last season, Amherst returns a core group of key players to a defense that led the NESCAC in rushing yards allowed per game (110.6). Second in the conference in points allowed (14.9), the Jeffs finished second in the league in total defense (281.0 ypg) and should once again be a formidable unit this season.

Defensive Line
Losing all three starters from last year, the Jeffs will look to several returners to step up and help fill the gaps in what had been the league’s most stout run defense. Max Lehrman ’15 saw action in six games last season, along with Sam Caldwell ’16. Owen Davis ’14, Benji Sklar ’14 and Robert Perdoni ’16 also saw action in 2012, while converted running back Steven Jellison ’14 will compete for playing time.

Returning from an injury that kept him out all of last season, Francis Radici ’16 could also figure into the equation, along with transfers Reid Singer ’16 and Sam Hart ’16.

Tri-captain Danny Chun ’14 leads a talented group of linebackers looking to help fill the void left by second-team all-conference honoree and three-year starter Sam Clark ’13. Chun finished third on the team in tackles last season (42), recording a team-high three sacks. Nabbing a pair of interceptions, Chun also found the endzone against Tufts, taking a pick back 72 yards for a score.

Ned Deane ’15 also returns after a solid 2012 in which he ranked fourth on the team in tackles (41). Chris Tamasi ’15, who was second on the squad in tackles for loss (7.0), played in all eight contests, making 32 stops. Lars Larsen ’15 could all vie for increased role, alongside Tyler Mordas ’16, Jack Drew ’16, and Bear Kaminer ’16.

Tied for second in the NESCAC in interceptions last season (13) the Jeff secondary returns several playmakers including tri-captain Landrus Lewis ’14E. Suffering an injury that kept him out of the tailend of 2012, Lewis hopes to return to the form that earned him first-team all-league laurels as a junior. Coming on late, Jaymie Spears ’16 is back after a stellar rookie year, along with cornerbacks Kevin Callahan ’14 and Ryan Duzyk ’15.

Max Dietz ’14 returns to his starting free safety role after making 31 tackles and breaking up five passes in 2012. Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, Jake Shuman ’15 and Christopher Gow ’16 will compete for the other safety spot left vacant by first-team All-NESCAC honoree Mike Aldo ’13E.

Filling in for Amherst in the kicking game will be Phillip Nwosu ’14. Sitting out last season, Nwosu handled the kick-off duties in 2011, averaging 60.2 yards per kick with a pair of touchbacks.

Amherst’s punting game looks to be more solidified with the return of both McGonagle and Will Brewster ’15. The duo split time last season with McGonagle averaging 35.6 yards per kick, including a long of 62 and seven punts falling inside the 20. Brewster was almost as good in his 16 attempts, putting 10 punts inside the 20 with an average of 32.4 yards.

With the departure of Durham, the Jeffs’ return game could also see some new faces. Lewis may share duties on the return team, along with Garay and first-year Myles Gaines.

Amherst opens its schedule at Hamilton on Sept. 21 before debuting a new and improved Pratt Field against Bowdoin on Sept. 28. Middlebury visits the Pioneer Valley the following weekend before the Jeffs head north to face Colby on Oct. 12.

Amherst welcomes Little Three rival Wesleyan for Homecoming on Oct. 19 before traveling east to Tufts on Oct. 26. Trinity makes its way to Pratt Field for Family Weekend and Senior Day on Nov. 2 before the Jeffs close out their 2013 slate at archrival Williams on Nov. 9.