WATERVILLE, ME – After earning a victory in their first game of the season, the Williams College Ephs looked to continue the trend against the Colby College Mules (0-1). The Mules beat the Ephs last year, 9-7, during the first game of the season. However, in Saturday's game, the Ephs started 10 first-years, setting up a completely new game from the year prior. Clearly, Williams thought so too, as they rolled to a 24-7 victory.
The win elevated the ephs to 2-0 on the year, while Colby droppped to 0-2.
The Mules got the ball first and began a gradual drive upfield. Just before Colby could get to the red zone, though, the Eph defense forced a 4th down. Colby then faked the punt, but ultimately turned the ball over on downs. The Eph offense, however, could not capitalize, and soon Williams had to punt.
Colby then started on their own 20. Like the first drive, they were methodical on their way upfield, sticking to short throws and runs for the most part. Unlike the last drive, though, the Mules were able to get into the redzone, and then converted that opportunity into a touchdown by way of a 6-yard completion by Jack O'Brien to Brandon Miner.
After 3-and-outs from both teams, the Ephs got the ball back on their 43, hoping to tie the game again. Reminiscent of some of their best drives against Bowdoin the week prior, the Ephmen were efficient, heading up field in only a few minutes. Mainly with a mixture of long runs by Connor Harris '18 and completions by quarterback Bobby Maimaron '21, the Ephs were soon threatening to score. After a 14-yard completion to Justin Nelson '21 that brought the offense to the Colby's 1, Harris punched it in for a score.
Building off the momentum created by the offense, the Williams defense caused another 3-and-out. Leading tacklers from last week TJ Rothman '21 and Desmond Butler '19 stopped the first two plays for short gains, and then O'Brien's attempt for a 3rd down conversion was stopped by a tip from Jameson DeMarco '19. Colby then looked to punt on 4th down, but the snap was muffed, leading to a recovery by Christian Dumont '19.
This gave the Eph offense fantastic field position, having to only travel 12 yards to score. The Colby defense was up to the challenge, however, even with a roughing the passer penalty that led to a 1st and goal. Facing a choice between going for a 3-yard touchdown or settling for a field goal, head coach Mark Raymond chose to take the safe option, leading to a short field goal by Min Kyu Park '21. This gave the Ephs a 10-7 lead, which they hoped to either keep or extend before the half. The defense then had another stop, leading to a Colby punt, but the Ephs elected to play conservatively, and run out the clock.
Part of the reason for this decision was that the Ephs would get the ball back at the beginning of the second half. Despite a 30-yard return by Justin Nelson, the Williams was not able to get anything going, and were forced to punt. There was a bright spot to this first drive, though, as senior punter/wide receiver Adam Regensburg lofted a 48-yard punt deep into Mules' territory, forcing Colby to start their drive on their own 4-yard line.
Facing such tight quarters, the Mules offense were not able to move far ahead, and also had to punt. Frank Stola '21, who had a massive game last week with 168 yards receiving and 3 total touchdowns, returned the punt for 9 yards, setting up great field position again. Although the offenses on both sides were off to slow starts, the same could not be said for the Williams special teams unit, which had consistently created big returns, and forced a fumble early in the game.
On the first play of the drive from Colby's 26, Maimaron threw to a wide-open Frank Stola in the end zone, but unfortunately, the pass was a bit too long, and the pair could not connect. The next play, Maimaron was sacked for the first time in the game, losing one yard. On 3rd down, Maimaron broke free from the pocket, but despite a valiant effort, he was one yard short of the first down. Park came on to attempt another field goal, but the kick sailed just wide, keeping the score at 10-7.
The defense, however, was unyielding in the 3rd quarter, as it had been for the bulk of the game beforehand. They were led by TJ Rothman, who beat his first game total with 12 tackles in the first half. Ben Anthony '20, one of the team's defensive leaders last season with 44 tackles, had 9, and Luke Apuzzi '20 had 6.
The unit had its greatest test towards the end of the 3rd quarter and the beginning of the 4th. Colby quarterback Jack O'Brien, who had given the Ephs a tough challenge with his speed and elusiveness, led a strong drive with a mix of completions and quarterback runs. However, the Ephs stopped him and the Mules offense at their own 32, forcing a field goal. Yet again, the Williams special teams stepped up, and blocked Colby kicker John Baron's attempt, not allowing the score to change.
Later in the quarter, the Williams offense had the ball back after being forced to punt in 5 of its last 6 possessions. It seemed like the trend would continue when the Ephs were faced with a 3rd down and long, but they were able to break out with a big play. Maimaron aired it out into a crowded area, but somehow Nelson was able to catch the ball for a first down. He actually fumbled the ball after the catch, but fortunately Rashad Morrison '21 recovered it, allowing the Ephs to keep possession. Connor Harris then caught a short pass from Maimaron and earned a tough 13 yards, breaking multiple tackles in the process. Finally, to finish it off, Maimeron passed to first-year tight end Justin Burke, who carried the ball into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. After Park's PAT, the Ephs led 17-7 with only 3:18 remaining.
If not for the Ephs' defense, this would have been the final score. After a few more changes of possession, Colby had one last chance to make the game close again. However, on first down, linebacker Austin Thomas '19 sacked Jack O'Brien, and in the process forced a fumble. Picking it up in stride, senior defensive captain Christopher Hattar brought the ball back into the end zone, and extended the lead to 24-7, which ended up being the final score.
The win brought the Ephs to 2-0, which is already a significant improvement from last season. Undoubtedly, other teams in the league will take note; the test will be how Williams responds when they play some of the powerhouses of the NESCAC. The defense and special teams were fantastic on the day, and certainly will give the offense a chance to succeed in the coming weeks.
Williams and Colby were almost identically productive on offense, with Williams having only a 7-yard positive margin, with 248 total yards to Colby's 241. Maimaron was 16 for 29 on the day, with 166 yards and 1 touchdown, while Jack O'Brian was 24 for 43, with 129 yards and 1 touchdown. O'Brian looked dangerous on the ground as well, but the Eph defense did a great job in limiting him to only 36 yards on 22 rushes. Connor Harris, meanwhile, rushed for 59 yards with one touchdown on 17 carries, while Colby's Jake Schwern managed to gain 71 yards on 15 attempts. Ethan Smith led the way on the receiving end for the Mules with 49 yards on 8 receptions.
The defenses from both teams were very good for the most part, but Williams especially was phenomenal. TJ Rothman had a massive 19 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Another first-year, Jarrett Wesner, had 14 tackles, while Ben Anthony had 12. Both Jameson DeMarco and Austin Thomas had 1.5 sacks. Impressively, the defense held Colby to only 7 points on 97 offensive plays, and in fact matched that total on Hattar's defensive touchdown. The Williams offense, meanwhile, only had 65 plays. Of those plays, Colby's Don Vivian had 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss and a forced fumble, although it was recovered.
"I'm very proud of the effort we showed today," said Coach Raymond. "We got contributions from a lot of people today, especially in the most critical points in the game."
The Ephs will look to keep the wins coming when they face a tough matchup away at Trinity, last year's NESCAC champion next Saturday. The Bantams (2-0) beat Colby 35-0 in thier season opener and today beat Bates 51-0.