WILLIAMSTOWN, MA-In front of a packed house for Homecoming, the Williams football team (5-2) did not disappoint on Saturday, blowing out the Cardinals of Wesleyan (1-6) by the score of 48-14.
Williams won the toss but elected to defer, and the Cardinals came out firing with an efficient scoring drive that took just over three minutes and culminated in a 10 yard touchdown pass from Cardinal QB Blake DuBois to receiver Steve Hauser. Wesleyan employed a lot of short passes and screen plays on the drive, frustrating the Williams pass-rush. The Cardinals also tallied three first downs in the drive, equaling the total number of first downs given up by the Ephs in last weekend's victory over Hamilton (a new school record).
It's been a long season for the old ball field at the end of Spring Street, and on Saturday Weston Field wasn't hiding its bruises. Players on both sides of the field struggled with their footing all game, and Williams first drive of the game ended in a three-and-out due in large part to a couple of key stumbles.
Aside from the slippery start though, the game was all Williams. The Ephs out scored the Cardinals 48-7 after the visitor's opening score, and surpassed Wesleyan in almost every statistical category.
"This is our playoffs," said Eph Coach Mike Whalen, "It's a big part of our tradition. I think the Little Three has lost some of its luster with a lot of the other sports going to NCAA's and things like that, but in football we don't go to the NCAA's, so for us this is the opportunity for us to play for a championship. We're happy that we accomplished the first part of that today and we're excited to go out and try to accomplish the other part next week at Amherst."
After Wesleyan's opening score, the Eph defense responded in kind and forced a punt from deep inside Cardinal territory. Sure-handed return man Pat Barren made a good return on the punt, and the Ephs began their second possession with excellent field position. The Ephs wasted no time, as a quick pass to Powell and a long rush by Morrissey resulted in a 1st down inside the Wesleyan 20. A few plays later Morrissey would convert a 4th and 1 for a first down at the Wesleyan 9, and later on fourth down and goal the Eph captain punched it in from the 1 yard line for Williams first score. Morrissey had yet another huge day, tallying 140 yards and 3 touchdowns on 30 carries. The performance leaves him just 47 yards away from becoming Williams' all-time leading rusher, however the senior captain couldn't seem to care less:
"To be honest with you, it's not on my mind at all, because I'm just really focused on winning this last game. And the whole record thing is just a testament to the guys I played with through the years anyway, whether it be the guys up front or a guy like Pat Lucey; for three years he was the guy [laughing] and I just got to sneak by, you know?"
Williams continued to win the field position battle, as on the ensuing kickoff the Wesleyan return-man bobbled the kick and stranded the Cardinals deep in their own territory. Williams took advantage, forcing yet another punt and then driving the ball down the field for another TD to take the lead. The actual scoring play would come from Morrissey again.
Before the Cardinals could blink it seemed, Morrissey was in the end zone again, this time on a five yard run to put Williams up 21-7. Just as the Ephs seemed poised to run away with it behind the legs of Morrissey, the Cardinals would pick themselves up off the mat. Again attacking the Ephs with the pass, the Cardinals would string together a 12 play drive spanning 84 yards and including just two running plays. The last two plays of the drive were to receiver Chris Helsel, who made great catches on each play to give Wesleyan their second score of the game with just 51 seconds to play in the half.
Rather than hang their heads though, the Ephs would respond in kind, mounting a furious rally that would result in a monster 43 yard field goal by Scott Sobolewski as time expired in the half.
"You could see on the other sideline, after he hit that kick, they just deflated," said Morrissey, "whereas we were sprinting into the locker room and really fired up."
Added Whalen: "He's battled some injuries this year, and we were all happy for him because he's worked hard and just had some tough luck. That ball was good from 52."
With the momentum squarely in their corner, the Ephs proceeded to put the game away in the second half, as seniors Ryan Powell, Brian Egan, and Elijah Weeks would all score touchdowns.
"Brian Egan did a great job today," said Whalen, "he does a lot of things as far as blocking that might go unnoticed...at a lot of other programs he's a starting tailback. He's a great football player so I was very happy to see him get that touchdown today."
The Eph defense was overwhelming in the 48-14 rout, allowing just 65 yards rushing on the game and no scores in the second half. Quarterback Pat Moffitt had a solid game, connecting on 18 of 24 passes for 222 yards and a TD, and receiver Stew Buck stepped up in place of injured star Nick Caro, catching 7 passes for 108 yards. On the precipice of history though, Morrissey once again stole the show:
"You can't say enough about him," beamed Whalen, "What impresses me time and time again is just how humble he is, and how much the program means to him, and as a coach that's what you strive for, kids like that who bleed purple and would give everything for Williams. He doesn't care about the record - he wants to beat Amherst."
Besides Morrissey's record chase, history was indeed in the air as it always seems to be at Williams Homecoming, and the feeling wasn't lost on Whalen:
"We've won a lot of football games here, and they won a lot of games before me. The level of excellence we expect here is high; we want kids who are serious about football and want to win a lot of games. Our goals never change, every year they're the same: go 8-0, win the NESCAC, win the Little Three. That's what we do here; we came up a little short on the first two this year but we're very excited to go down to Amherst next week and try to accomplish that last one."
Williams will play their final game of the year against 5-2 Amherst next week. The game will decide the winner of the Little Three Championship this year, and is scheduled to start at 12:00 pm.