WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – With 14:26 left in regulation and Williams College leading by three touchdowns, it appeared almost certain that this afternoon's contest between the Ephs (2-0) and the Bantams (1-1) was not destined to achieve the kind of heart-racing, down-to-the-wire drama that has defined the rivalry for so many years. However, Trinity was determined to stay true to that tradition, and they rallied to pull within a touchdown of Williams in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. In fact, the game actually came down to the final play, and it took a defensive stand on the part of Williams to hold on for the 29-21 win over the Bantams and stave off an improbable Trinity comeback.
For Williams, this was their first defeat of Trinity since 2006 season, an undefeated 8-0 run that garnered the NESCAC championship.
"This was a huge win for us," remarked obviously-relieved Eph head coach Aaron Kelton. "These seniors haven't beaten Trinity in the four years they've been here, so it was a great win for them and as well as for the program. At the same time, it's only Game 2…we have to keep it in the perspective of the whole season and understand that there's a lot of work left to do."
Aside from the final fifteen minutes of action, the game was largely dominated by Williams. It took a few possessions for the Eph offense to solve the quick, aggressive Bantam defense, as their efforts to establish their formidable rushing attack yielded little results. But the purple and gold would eventually find the solution in the deep passing game, as the arm strength of senior quarterback Pat Moffitt began connecting on home-run tosses down the field in the second quarter.
The first of these was delivered to sophomore wide out Darren Hartwell, who ran a streak down the left sideline to beat the defensive back in single-man coverage, tracked the high-arching throw, hauled it in, and sprinted into the endzone for an 83-yard touchdown that shot Williams ahead 6-0. The score ended the 0-0 tie that had lasted through half of the second frame, and the unexpected display of offense brought the home crowd at Weston to life.
"We don't sugarcoat that we're going to run the football," stated Eph head coach Aaron Kelton, who remains undefeated in his debut season. "Teams know that that's what we're going to get when they face us. I think Trinity did a great job against the run, but we have a lot of guys…who can make big plays on offense as well. You saw that out there with the passing game today."
On the next Eph possession, Moffitt and Hartwell hooked up again, in what essentially was a carbon copy of the first touchdown, although this reception went for 89-yards and doubled the lead, 12-0. Hartwell would finish the day with 5 catches for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, tying him with four other Ephs for most touchdowns in a game. The last Eph to accomplish this mark was All-NESAC wide out Nick Caro '10.
"It's hard to cover him because he is so dynamic with his movements," said Kelton of Hartwell. "He and our other receivers have the kind of talent where Pat can just kind of throw it up there and trust that his guy can go up and get it."
While this exhibition of offensive was impressive, the Eph defense was just as outstanding, applying pressure to Trinity senior quarterback Craig Drusbosky and causing him to make hasty decisions. In one instance, the crowded pocket afforded inadequate space for Drusbosky to step into his throw, and he underthrew a long pass down the sideline as a result, a ball that was picked off by junior Tyler Cole, who did well to position himself and stay inbounds. On the next Trinity series, senior Dan Canina got loose on the edge and chased Drusbosky out of the pocket. The quarterback was forced to throw across his body while on the move, and his pass floated into the arms of junior defensive back Dan O'Mara. In addition to this pick, O'Mara led the team in total tackles (11) and solo tackles (8) for the game.
"I definitely thought we did a lot better job of getting to the quarterback this week," said Kelton. "We forced him to make difficult throws…and that made a huge difference."
It wasn't until midway through the third stanza that Trinity would crack the armor of the Eph defense. The 9-play, 81-yard drive was ignited by junior Nana Appah-Sampong's 29-yard reception, sustained by three consecutive passing gains to senior tight end Christopher Hunt, and finished by senior Ben Sherry's 2-yard direct-snap rushing touchdown. This score spoiled the shutout and cut the Eph lead in half, 15-7.
Up until that point in the third quarter, Moffitt and the Williams offense had been undermined by interceptions, but that Trinity touchdown seemed to retrigger their feel for the deep pass. This time, Moffitt let one fly high and far on 1st-and-21 to senior Bryce Bennett, and the wide-out reeled it in and ran it down to the Trinity 29 yard-line for a 61-yard gain. Then from 25 yards out, Moffitt went to Hartwell again, finding him in the back corner of the endzone for a 25-yard score.
On the ensuing Trinity possession, senior Dylan Schultz, who recorded 10 total tackles (6 solo) and was seemingly omnipresent this afternoon, and several other Eph blitzers overwhelmed Drusboksy. The quarterback coughed up the football, and Schultz fell on top to set his team up on the Trinity 35-yard line. The offense would finish what the defense started, as Moffitt lobbed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bennett to give the Ephs a 29-7 advantage with 14:26 left to play.
But an undaunted Trinity would not be as easy to put away as the Ephs would have liked. Drusbosky and the Bantam offense managed to orchestrate two touchdown drives in the span of 10 minutes, with a great debt owed to Christopher Hunt. The tight end would register two 20-yard receptions on the first touchdown drive (including the touchdown), and would also find open space in the endzone for the second touchdown, a 5-yard catch that made it a one possession game, 29-21.
Fortunately for Williams, the defense found itself and came up big at the right time. With mere seconds to work with, the Drusbosky-Hunt duo wasted little time advanced the ball to midfield. From there, successive penalties against Williams brought the Bantams inside the red zone with time left for one play. Drusbosky heaved a toss towards the endzone, but the Eph backfield had shielded off the Trinity receivers and the ball fell incomplete. Williams had held on despite the unwanted drama.
"We got a little unnerved towards the end," professed Kelton, "and this is an issue we'll address in practice in the coming week. We'' be taking our show on the road next Saturday, traveling to Maine, and we'll have to prepare well if we want to beat a solid Bates team."
Kickoff for the next week's game is scheduled for 1:00PM at Garcelon Field in Lewiston, ME.