MIDDLEBURY, VT -- Williams College (2-2) battled through inclement weather to secure a 48-28 victory over the Middlebury Panthers (1-3) behind a strong ground game highlighted by three rushing TDs from junior Tom Wohlwender and two from sophomore Marco Hernandez.
The Ephs won the third and fourth quarters for the first time this season, turning a 20-14 halftime lead into a 34-20 lead by scoring on their first two second half possessions and then put the game away by responding to each Middlebury second half TD with one of their own.
The Ephs won the race to the scoreboard eight minutes into the game, with a 62-yard touchdown by Tom Wohlwender. Wohlwender who charged through a wall of Middlebury defenders to race up the right sideline and into the end zone, marking Wohlwender's seventh rushing TD of the season. After a successful PAT by sophomore kicker Joe Mallock, the Ephs led 7-0 with nine minutes left in the first frame. Kelton said of Mallock's performance (6-7 on PATs), "[Mallock]'s got confidence in the execution of his kicks. He's out there because we know he can make the kicks and that's what he did for us today."
Though Middlebury was able to threaten all day with a no-huddle offense, the Ephs commandeered control when senior defensive back Dan O'Mara intercepted a McCallum Foote pass and blazed up the field with five minutes remaining in the quarter. The Ephs weren't able to capitalize on this momentum and the first quarter closed out 7-0.
Though he took some hard hits, Marske exhibited an effective passing game and creative play calling throughout the contest to keep the Panther defense off balance. Coach Kelton said he wasn't surprised by Markse's continued improvement. "He's going to be a really good player," Kelton noted. "His development is coming along exactly the way we hoped it would."
The Ephs opened the second quarter in a tough position, punting out of their own end zone into the wind, which gave the Panthers great field position when the ball ended up on the Williams 38-yard line. This advantage paid off for Middlebury, and despite defensive pressure from the Ephs' sophomore DL Ernest Higginbotham, the Panthers came knocking at the door. The Eph linebackers struggled to get a hold of Panther Billy Chapman, and he snuck into the end zone just a little over two minutes into the second quarter. After a PAT by Mike Dola, the Panthers had tied up the score at 7.
Quickly responding, Wohlwender proved himself unstoppable once more as he ran with authority into the end zone for this second touchdown of the game. Mallock secured another PAT to increase the Eph lead by 7 for an advantage of 14-7 with 10 minutes left in the half.
The Panthers' offense battled back with a rushing play that allowed Remi Ashkar to ramble into the end zone. With a successful PAT from Dola the Panthers and Ephs were knotted at 14 with six minutes to go before halftime.
The Ephs answered the second Panther touchdown on a drive begun by a huge rush by Wohlwender to the Middlebury 33-yard line. Marske was then able to deliver a pass to Darren Hartwell to get the Ephs closer to their goal. Then, with a minute left in play, Hernandez made a huge block for Wohlwender, sending him soaring into the end zone for the third time on the day. This is the third time this season that Wohlwender has rushed for three touchdowns in a game. Mallock failed to convert the PAT attempt, and the Ephs were able to take a lead of 20-14 into halftime.
The Ephs initiated their second half performance with a touchdown catch by Darren Hartwell in the first minute off a soaring 56-yard pass from Marske. Mallock hammered home the PAT and the Ephs upped their lead to 27-14 just two minutes into the second half.
Marco Hernandez then capped off another Eph drive running the final three yards to the end zone for the Ephs' fifth touchdown, giving the Ephs 14 points on their first two possessions of the second half. The lead was now up to 20 at 34-14 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Panthers got the Ephs' attention when Remi Ashkar burst through the line for a 41-yard TD. With the Dola PAT Middlebury cut the Eph lead to 34-21 at the end of the third quarter.
Darren Hartwell snared 6 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, while Nick Resor led the Panthers with 11 connections for 130 yards and one trip to the end zone.
Overall, Williams initiated 48 rushes for a total of 280 yards, as Middlebury ran 36 times for a total of 147 yards.