The week of practice before the April 30th home matchup against Williams was all business. The injuries and absences from the previous two weeks cleared up and Amherst’s full squad was finally fit and ready play. The tackle dummies donning Williams jerseys saw extensive use all week, and by Friday the team was rearing to have a go at the hated Williams “White Dogs”, who last fall bested Amherst in Williamstown.
After team breakfast, the boys arrived at the field early, some already with headphones on blasting pump-up tunes. The mood was serious, as Amherst was well aware they were facing an undefeated Williams side, and that their very own undefeated season was on the line. Soon enough Williams rolled up to the pitch, and with gritted teeth and furrowed brows Amherst began their warm-ups.
Amherst elected to receive the kickoff, and after gaining possession the forwards tried to test themselves against the larger William’s pack right off the bat. Solid possession allowed the backs to attack into the 22, nearly scoring on the line, but knocking on just short. The Williams side cleared their line and went on the attack.
Despite holding their own against pick-and-goes, the Amherst pack suffered a soft penalty at the breakdown, which Williams kicked to touch, pinning Amherst deep in the 22. The Williams’ forwards put up an impressive lineout, and brought the ball down into a maul, where the 8-man picked from the back and broke the Amherst defense, scoring beneath the posts. “Chubby-outside-center” looked to have improved his kicking from the last year, and successfully converted to make the score 7-0 to Williams.
The next 15 minutes saw Amherst’s discipline break down at the ruck and maul, conceding close to 10 penalties. Many of the calls were suspect at best, and Amherst buckled up for a bumpy ride with an inexperienced referee. Williams capitalized and kept the boys backpedalling. The Williams 8-man proved too much for the Amherst back three once again as he picked from a ruck and shrugged off the Amherst defense, scoring beneath the posts and giving “Chubby-outside-center” the easy kick.
Just before halftime Amherst finally began to apply pressure, but it was too little too late and the halftime whistle sounded, Amherst trailing 14-0. At half, Amherst made some changes. Junior Forward’s captain Chris “C-payne” Payne was taken out after he re-injured his shoulder (a separated AC suffered just 2 weeks prior), and junior Mark Petros (who had been abroad up until a few days before the match) stepped in. In the backs, freshman Micah Rotich came in at wing.
At the beginning of the second half Amherst resumed in building momentum. The chat at halftime got the boys thinking about penalties, and the whistle stayed silent long enough Amherst to get into the Williams half. A penalty was awarded, and Jon Christian “JC” Evensen tapped the ball and fed it to sophomore prop Joseph Moffit, who blasted through the Williams pack and scored. Parada failed to add the extras, making the score 5-14.
Amherst received the next kick off and didn’t relent, keeping the ball in Williams’ territory. Freshman wing substitute Micah Rotich chased every kick Parada put down the field, pressuring the Williams’ back three and forcing errors. One kick in particular sailed high and near the touch line, giving Rotich plenty of time to motor his 5’ frame over and deliver a crunching tackle right when the Williams’ fullback received the ball. Rotich drove the man into touch and the roars of the crowd boosted Amherst’s energy.
In the next phase, sophomore inside center Garrett McCoy took a short pop from Parada and crashed through the defensive line, giving a trademark stiff-arm and scoring a try. Parada converted, bringing Amherst to just 2 points down, 12-14.
It was clear at this point that Williams’ fitness was becoming an issue. Amherst kept them pinned on their own try line, but couldn’t manage to get the ball over. Williams finally cleared the ball, which senior veteran fullback Michael Halvorson received at about mid field. He trotted the ball forward to the 10 meter and then, with ice in his veins, ripped a 40 meter drop goal through the posts. Without breaking his poker face, Halvorson jogged back to the Amherst half for the kickoff. The sideline erupted once again, as Amherst gained the lead for the first time, 15-14.
Williams looked distressed, and their handling in the backs began to suffer. The Amherst back line flew up on defense and disrupted passes and clearing kicks. The result was once again an exhausted Williams pack, who was kept running backwards to ruck for their failing back line. It seemed impossible for Amherst not to score, and Mark Petros thought he had an easy try off a pick and go, only to knock on just inches short.
In the final minute, Amherst was awarded a penalty behind the 22 just inside the touch line. Parada elected to go for points and put the game out of reach of a Williams penalty kick. The kick sailed through, despite the classic heckling and shouts of “ginger”. The ref then checked his clock and had had enough, blowing the whistle and marking the end to an undefeated season.
Williams, with drooping heads, brought their jerseys over and handed them to their new owners, signaling the start of celebrations.
A 10 a side B-side match was played, with mixed sides showing class and sportsmanship.
Congrats to the boys on an undefeated season and especially the seniors.
Left to right: (furthest back row) Sean Monaco, Emil Vasilev, Dan Schulwolf, Tim Poterbo, Tommy Fredrick, (Second row, standing) Robert Hopley, Joshua Russakis, Simon Gao, Mark Roh, Tom Burnett, Joseph Moffit, Andrew Maori, Julian Scott, Sam Smith, Kai Hsu, John Kush Maingi, Kevin Vega, "Kash Money", (Front row, kneeling)Alexander Coburn, Chris McHale, Michael Halvorson, Jon Christian Evensen, Chris Payne, Mark Petros, Robert Cross, Micah Rotich, (Lounging) Nicolas Parada, Garrett McCoy