WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – On a warm opening day of football, the Ephs faced the Bowdoin College Polar Bears at Farley-Lamb Field. The contest marked the beginning of a new era for NESCAC football, which expanded to a 9-game schedule this season.
In terms of history, Williams had a major edge. The Ephs had won the past 11 games between the two teams at home, and had not lost to the Polar Bears in Williamstown since 1979. Sticking with that trend, the Ephs won the game 28-14, snapping a 13-game losing skid in the process.
The Ephs got off to a hot start on defense. On the first play of the game, Bowdoin running back Nate Richam fumbled. Linebacker TJ Rotham '21 immediately pounced on the ball, giving possession back to the offense in great field position. The Bowdoin defense held firm, however, forcing a punt after a 3-and-out.
That series set the trend for the rest of the quarter. Both defenses were tough, yielding only four first downs combined. The game had the makings of a low-scoring standoff.
A mistake from the Ephs nearly led to the first score of the game. Two minutes into the second quarter, quarterback Bobby Maimaron '21 passed to his first-year teammate, Justin Burke, who had a clear path to a first down with a blocker downfield. A fumble, however, led to a turnover that put Bowdoin on Williams' 35. Yet again, though, the defense came to the rescue, forcing a punt after an illegal formation penalty set the Polar Bears back five yards.
After the punt, the Ephs had the ball at their own 7. It seemed like the result would be another quick drive and punt. Maimaron and the offense had different plans. On the first play of the drive, receiver Frank Stola '21 ran downfield and broke free. Maimaron, who broke Doug Flutie's Massachusetts high school record with 122 touchdowns, delivered a perfect ball, letting Stola finish off the 93-yard TD play. Stola almost was caught on his way to the end zone, but he kept his balance after a Bowdoin defender attempted a tackle around his feet.
With about four minutes left in the quarter, Bowdoin started with the ball at Williams' 28-yard line, providing another test for the Eph defense. The Polar Bears worked their way up to the 1-yard line after gaining yards mostly through designed quarterback runs. Though the Ephs forced a 4th down, quarterback Noah Nelson got over the line with a quarterback sneak. With an extra point, the game was tied at 7.
Williams came very close at the end of the half to taking the lead again. They worked their way to field goal range, allowing an attempt in the final seconds. Unfortunately, the kick from Min Kyu Park '21 hit the left upright and ricocheted out.
In the second drive of a new half the Ephs began moving the chains efficiently with a no-huddle offense. Starting on their own 23, the offense drove forward to Bowdoin 23-yard line in six plays. From there, Maimaron found Stola again through the middle, mostly unopposed, to give the lead back to Williams. Williams led 14-7 at 10:50 of the third quarter after Min Kyu Park's PAT.
Starting on their own side of the field again, the Ephs were able to go on another long drive using similar tactics to their previous drive. Fast-paced action kept the Bowdoin defense uneasy, allowing the Ephs to methodically get first down after first down. Soon enough, Williams was in the red zone again. Finishing the drive off, Frank Stola scored his third touchdown of the day on a 1-yard wide receiver run. Going into the fourth quarter, Williams had 21-7 lead.
Although the Class of 2021 starred on the day, one of the most impressive plays of the game was completed by a senior. Only a minute into the fourth quarter, with the ball at Bowdoin's 43-yard line, Connor Harris burst through the middle and carried it all the way to the end zone for the Ephs' fourth touchdown. Credit must be given to the offensive line for creating a hole for Harris that led to his TD run.
The Polar Bears would not go down without a fight, however. Only a few minutes later, with 7:44 left in the game, Bowdoin quarterback Noah Nelson ran in for his second touchdown, making narrowing the score to 28-14.
The Ephs fired back with force right away. On the ensuing kickoff, first-year receiver Justin Nelson fashioned 67-yard return, evading the Bowdoin kicker on his way to the 25-yard line. However, the offense could not take advantage, eventually punting it for a touchback
With 6:40 remaining, the defense quickly forced a punt; however, the punt landed on a Williams' player's back, and Bowdoin recovered. Starting their drive on the Williams 47, Bowdoin got a first down on a QB run. On the next play, though, they were penalized for delay of game. The Eph defense was not yielding any yards and the Polar Bears faced 4th and 15. With only 6 minutes remaining and two touchdowns to make up, they had to go for it. Although Bowdoin completed a 10-yard pass, possession was back with the Ephs. From there, Williams was able to coast to a victory.
The highlight of the game was obviously the first-years. Eph head coach Mark Raymond's first recruiting class showed their big play potential, led by Frank Stola's 168 yards receiving and 3 all-purpose touchdowns (not to mention his unofficial 50-yard return). The man throwing to him, Bobby Maimaron, was also very impressive, garnering 283 passing yards on 17 completions and two touchdowns. On defense, first year TJ Rothman had eight tackles, and recovered an early fumble. Lastly, on special teams, Justin Nelson showed how much of a difference maker he can be with two returns totaling 75 yards.
The Ephs racked up 439 yards of offense against Bowdoin's 220. Aside from the passing attack, Connor Harris had 102 yards rushing on only 12 attempts. On defense, junior defensive back Desmond Butler had 9 tackles, while classmate Jameson DeMarco had 2 sacks.
For Bowdoin, Noah Nelson had 111 passing yards, mainly to Nick Vailas, who had seven catches for 46 yards. Nate Richam led the Polar Bears in rushing with 54 yards, while their top defensive player, Latif Armiyaw, had 10 tackles, including a sack and 2 tackles for loss.
It was obvious how excited Raymond was after securing his first victory with the Ephs. "I'm really proud of these guys. They played with great determination and played hard. They had a few tough situations in the game, but they hung in there, played for each other, and played really hard." He also stressed how the win was a complete team effort. "It's hard to pinpoint guys: we just played a really solid team game."
The Ephs will look to keep it going when they face the Colby College Mules in Waterville, Maine next Saturday at 1 PM. The Mules lost their season opener to Trinity, 35-0.