WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – With 106 seconds remaining in regulation, it looked like Williams would open the 2016 season with a win. 106 seconds later, however, it was Colby that ran off the field in triumph.
Colby placekicker John Baron made a 19-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining on the snap in the fourth quarter to give the Mules a 9-7 victory over the Williams College Ephs in the first game of the NESCAC football season.
Williams trailed 6-0 for most of the game after Colby capitalized on excellent field position with a touchdown. Eph returner Mike Davis fumbled a punt at his own 24-yard line, and seven plays later the Mules were up a touchdown when RB Jabari Hurdle-Price found the end zone on a 3-yard run with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
Neither team was able to score in the second or third quarters and the final two-minute warning had already sounded by the time Williams found the end zone for the first time.
The Ephs started the drive right around midfield after forcing a Colby punt, and, after two clutch passes from first-year QB Jansen Durham to Adam Regensburg, including one on a fourth and 7, Williams found themselves on the 10-yard line.
Connor Harris rushed up to the 7-yard line, and then on second down Durham rolled to his right, turned back to the left side, and found John Dillon underneath on the goal line for a touchdown, tying the game at 6. Adam Regensburg booted in the extra point to give the Ephs a one-point lead over the Mules with 1:46 remaining.
The Mules offense, starting from their own 44, was stuffed for the first three downs, setting up a fourth and 11. Colby QB Jack O'Brien was able to connect with Ryder Arsenault on the right side to gain the first down and that play was followed by an 11-yard rush by Jabari Hurdle-Price to the Williams 32. O'Brien found Arsenault again, this time deep down the right sideline, depositing the Mules inside the at the Williams 8-yard line.
O'Brien spiked the ball with 41 seconds on the clock, and then handed off to Hurdle-Price on the next play for a gain of 6 to the 2-yard line. After another spike, John Baron lined up for the go-ahead field goal and put it between the uprights.
Though the Ephs tried to lateral the ball down the field on the ensuing kickoff, the miracle didn't happen, and time elapsed with the score 9-7 in favor of Colby.
Despite the lack of scoring, both teams made serious incursions into the other's territory throughout the game, but the drives for both teams were hampered by penalties, mistakes, or one of eight turnovers in the contest. The Ephs alone made it to within the opposing 10-yard line three times in the fourth quarter, but were unable to convert until their final appearance in the red zone.
After the game, Williams head coach Mark Raymond, who was hired this offseason after coaching the last six seasons at Saint Lawrence University, was optimistic. "I'm just proud of our guys. They played with great effort, great passion, and they played together," he said. "I think there's some obvious things we need to get better at, but we'll do that."
Coach Raymond also expressed confidence that as the team gains experience – the Ephs returned only four starters on offense – they will be able to "make it pay [in the red zone] a little better."
The Ephs notched 308 total yards, 120 through the air and 188 on the ground. Noah Sorrento led the Eph rushing attack with 85 yards on 14 carries with significant assistance from Connor Harris and Jaelon Moaney, who registered 68 and 43 yards respectively.
Jansen Durham, who relieved Moaney under center in the fourth quarter, completed 9 of his 13 pass attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown. John Dillon and Adam Regensburg caught four passes apiece, combining for 83 yards.
On the defensive side, Justin Harris and Alex Brandeis each had twelve tackles, while Harris and Jameson Demarco both put in sacks. Amyhr Barber and Ben Anthony were responsible for the Ephs two interceptions. Harris also forced a fumble.
Colby's 239 total yards were more evenly split between pass and run, with Jack O'Brien (9-19) contributing 102 passing yards and Jabari Hurdle-Price leading the Mules on the ground with 87 yards on 23 carries, plus a touchdown. Ryder Arsenault's two clutch catches on the game-winning drive notched him a team-high 36 yards, while Hurdle-Price contributed 4 catches for 21 yards.
On defense, Sebastien Philemon racked up twelve tackles, while Bryan McAdams contributed two sacks. Will Caffey and Ian Dickey both came up with interceptions.
Next week, Colby will host Middlebury, while the Ephs will play host to Trinity at Farley-Lamb Field.