CLINTON, NY -- The Williams College Ephs will head into the last two games of the season against Little Three rivals Wesleyan and Amherst with an unscathed record, as they overwhelmed a shorthanded Hamilton squad 38-7 at Steuben Field this afternoon to improve to 6-0. The Continentals fall to 1-5 with the loss, and have now dropped 14 consecutive contests to the purple cows.
Under the influence of rookie head coach Aaron Kelton, the Eph defense has given NESCAC opponents a considerable amount to handle this season, limiting them to just 15.4 points per game coming into today's road matchup at Hamilton. The challenge of overcoming that unit was made all the more difficult for the Continental offense this afternoon, as they were operating without regular starting quarterback Jordan Eck.
Eck's replacement, senior Steve Mello, struggled to get things going against the highly physical, highly athletic Eph defenders, while senior counterpart Pat Moffitt and the Williams offense flourished, cranking out 4 touchdowns in the opening two quarters and 38 unanswered points through 40 minutes of regulation. Hamilton finished with 138 yards of total offense to the Ephs' 455 and 4 first downs to their 23.
"I thought we did a really good job all day [on defense] of executing our scheme," remarked Kelton. "They were missing a quarterback and had a lot of key kids who weren't able to play. We ended up being able to handle most everything that they threw at us."
The Ephmen had quite a comfortable handle on the Hamilton offense in the opening half, forcing seven stragiht 3-and-out drives before freshman runningback James Stanell barged through the line for a pick-up of 15 yards with less than 13 seconds left in the second quarter. Mello rushed his squad to the line and heaved a deep pass towards the red zone, hoping to get lucky in the closing ticks of the half. His attempt was intercepted by first-year defensive back Andre Lafontant, a sequence indicative of the day's events for the Continentals.
While Hamilton stalled for the vast majority of the game, Williams shined, as Moffitt completed passes to 7 different receivers over the course of 6 possessions in the first half, netting 203 yards and 3 touchdowns in the process. The first of these scores was set up by a blocked punt courtesy of sophomore linebacker Hill Hamrick, a clutch play that placed the chains at the Hamilton 8-yard line. From there, a 3-yard carry by senior Ryan Lupo and a 5-yard pitch and catch from Moffitt to sophomore stud Darren Hartwell gave the Ephs a quick six and an early lead. Junior kicker Chris Cleary tacked on the point-after to put Williams ahead 7-0.
With his 8th touchdown reception of the season, Hartwell jumps to the top of the Eph list for most touchdown catches in a single season, sitting along side two other star athletes. He joins Ryan Friend '03, who pulled down 8 in 2002, and Brendan Fulmer '07, who achieved that stat in both the 2005 and 2006 campaigns. With one more six-point snare in either of the final two games, Hartwell will eclipse these alumni and claim sole ownership of the program record.
To be sure, Hartwell has been the go-to target for Moffitt this year, but this afternoon it was junior wide receiver Tomas Kearney who entered the spotlight. Kearney snagged a pass of at least 10 yards on each of the subsequent Eph touchdown drives, including a 14-yard touchdown snag at the top of the second quarter that stretched the Williams advantage to 14-0. His longest catch of the day came three possessions later, when Moffitt sniped him for a 35-yard gain. That drive ended with a 9-yard plane-breaking dash by freshman back Kristian Lapointe, the first of his Williams career. Kearney wasn't done there however, as he snatched 20 and a 25-yard tosses on the opening drive of the third quarter, one that ended with a 2-yard endzone dive by sophomore Tim Morris, the first score of his career as well. Kearney totaled 8 catches for 131 yards in what was a breakout afternoon.
Senior tri-captain Jon Carroll featured prominently in the offensive mix today as well, particularly on the third Eph touchdown drive. The tight end jumpstarted that series with a 23-yard reception, and he ended it with a 5-yard touchdown grab that made it a 21-0 ball game at that point. Moffitt found him a third time midway through the third quarter, connecting with Carroll for a 20-yard hook-up that gave Cleary a chip shot from 25 yards out. He hammered it through the uprights to put the Ephs up by 38 points, sealing the eventual 38-7 victory. Moffitt finished the game 19 of 28 passing for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he earned a well-deserved rest in the fourth quarter.
With the three TD passes Moffitt upped his season toaal to 17 and tied the Eph record set by Mike Bajakian '96 and Joe Reardon '03.
"Overall, I think we were much more disciplined than in previous weeks," noted Kelton. "We were much better at limiting our mistakes and not allowing giving the other team any free first downs. It was something we talked about a lot this week in practice and in the locker room, and we will have to get even better at it if we want to end our season with a championship."
Williams will also have to rely on veteran stars like senior defensive back Pat Barren--who lead the team in solo and total tackles on the day with 5 and 6 respectively--and junior linebacker Dylan Schultz--who recorded 3 tackles of his own--for their continued leadership if they want to have a shot at corraling the potent offenses of their Little Three foes. Additional contributions from younger players such as sophomores Hunter Lent--who registered 3 total tackles and 2 pass break-ups in this contest--and Chris Cameron--who had a tackle for a loss of 6 yards--will also greatly advance that cause.
Next week, the purple and gold return to Williamstown for their homecoming game against the Cardinals of Wesleyan University. Not only will Weston Field be packed to the brim with alumni, parents, students, media, and fans, but former Eph head coach Mike Whalen will also be in attendance at the game as the head coach of the opposing Cardinals.
When asked about the inherent drama in a situation where he would be attempting to go 7-0 at homecoming against the man he had replaced this season, Kelton was rather diplomatic in his answer, simultaneously acknowledging and downplaying the excitement.
"It will certainly be an emotional game for our players and our team...and homecoming in general is always an emotional game. In the end though, it's just the seventh game of our season. We have to come with the same focus and composure that we have all year and do the things that we do best. As long as we stay focused on every play of every series, we will be fine.
"Right now, I'm just trying to enjoy this win," concluded Kelton. "We'll worry about next week tomorrow."