HARTFORD, CT – In a matchup of undefeated teams, the Williams College Ephs faced the Trinity College Bantams. Trinity was the NESCAC champion last season, and had won 11 games in a row prior to Saturday's game, as well as six games in a row against Williams. The Ephs, however, have shown that they are a completely different team from last year, starting 2-0 for the first time since 2010. Although the men put up a valiant effort, Trinity overcame them, 17-9.
Trinity started with the ball at their own 27. The Bantams attempted to set the tone in the game with their run game, but the Ephs only yielded one first down before forcing a punt. However, right after the punt, the ball was fumbled and then given right back to the Bantams. With only 12 yards to go for a score, Trinity running back Max Chipouras needed only two rushes to find the end zone and give his team the lead.
We knew, though, that defense would determine who won the game. Both teams' defenses had looked impressive in the first two weeks. The Ephs had only allowed 7 points in both their games, while Trinity had not given up a single point leading up to their matchup with Williams. This stayed true to form after the early touchdown. The next four drives were short, and all led to punts.
After this back-and-forth affair, one team was bound to eventually break through. Fortunately, it was the Ephs who took advantage. Starting at about midfield, the Ephs worked their way up to Trinity's 15, mostly by way of two catches by Justin Nelson '21, good for 10 and 22 yards, respectively. Unfortunately, quarterback Bobby Maimaron '21 and his offense were not able to tie the game, settling for a 28-yard field goal from Min Kyu Park '21. The game was now 7-3.
Now right back in it and energized, the Williams defense again forced a 3-and-out and a Trinity punt. However, on the return, the punt was muffed, which the Bantams special teams unit promptly pounced on, giving the ball back to their offense at the Ephs 15. In a moment of déjà vu, the Bantams offense took only two plays to score another touchdown, this time converting by way of a completion to Koby Schofer. Despite how well the Ephs defense was playing, the two turnovers in Williams territory were too much to overcome, leading to Trinity's 14 points.
It seemed that whenever either team started a drive from their own territory, there was no way that they would get any more than negligible yardage, let alone any points. For the next six drives after Trinity's second touchdown, there was not a single first down from either team. First-year linebacker Jarrett Wesner led the stalwart effort with 5 tackles in the first half, including 3 tackles for loss.
After one more Trinity 3-and-out, the Williams offense had one more chance to score their first touchdown. Starting at their own 7 yard-line, the Ephs had some ways to go, but two runs totaling 29 yards by Connor Harris '18 got them moving. Then, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty was tacked on to a 14-yard reception by Nelson, bring them into Bantams territory. Trinity almost stopped the Ephs offense, but on 4th and 7, Maimaron completed a crafty pass on a rollout to a wide-open Connor Harris, who then moved the chains. With time running out, Maimaron eventually took a shot to the endzone, but cornerback Matt Patry made an athletic interception to deny Frank Stola, the intended receiver, a score. The score going into halftime was 14-3 Bantams, with Williams receiving the ball to start the half.
The Ephs offense, obviously wanting the last drive back, came back hot in their first possession of the half. Led by an efficient run and pass attack, the Ephs trudged upfield on the Trinity defense, who had given them problems all game. Interestingly, at one point in the drive, there was an ineligible receiver downfield, but Trinity decided to decline the penalty. The Williams offense made Trinity pay for that decision immediately after, as Maimaron completed a 19-yard pass to Justin Nelson, who was the Ephs leading receiver in the first half. Then, on the next play, the Ephs finally got a touchdown, as Harris promptly caught a pass and ran it into the end zone. The snap was botched on the extra point, however, making the score 14-9. The momentum was surely on Williams' side.
Trinity, who had not given up a touchdown to that point, had a chance to respond. However, on a strange drive with 3 penalties, Trinity could not take advantage. On their next chance, though, the Bantams moved the ball upfield 44 yards before being stopped on 4th down at the Williams 29. For most teams, even in Division I, this would call for either a punt or a 4th down attempt, but Trinity had a unique third option. Their kicker, Eric Sachse, had hit 67 straight kicks (either field goals or extra points), and with the wind at their backs, coach Jeff Devanney was willing to give him a chance. On a 46-yard field goal attempt, Sachse hit one right down the middle, with room to spare. This extended the Trinity lead, making the score 17-9.
The highlight reel field goal squashed the brief momentum swing that the Ephs created earlier in the half. On their subsequent drive, the Ephs were forced to punt on 4th down after a 3-and-out, and giving the Bantams the ball again. The defense forced a 3rd and 6, but Sonny Puzzo completed a long pass to Jonathon Girard for a 32-yard gain. Then, on the very next play, Puzzo connected with John Spears for a 27-yard gain. Now in the red zone for the 3rd time, the Ephs got a stop, forcing a field-goal. Shockingly, in what was seemingly a gimme, Sachse missed his first kick in 68 attempts, keeping it a one-possession game.
After a brief drive from each team after the missed field goal, Williams had the ball on their 21. The team worked their way to Trinity's 42 after Maimaron connected on a few passes, in addition to a personal foul being called against Trinity. The Bantams defense held out, however, forcing a punt from Adam Regensburg '18, last week's NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week (linebacker TJ Rothman '21 received the same honor for defense). True to that title, he downed a punt at Trinity's 1-yard line. With such awful field position, Trinity could only try to avoid a safety and punt it away.
This gave the Ephs a great chance to tie the game again, with only 35 yards needed to score. However, on the first play of the drive, Maimaron threw a pass that was scouted out by senior linebacker Carty Campbell, who intercepted the pass. This proved to be decisive, as the Ephs got the ball back with only 5 seconds to go in the game, with 72 yards to make up. After an incomplete pass, the game was over at 17-9.
Although officially a loss, the game had many positive takeaways. The Williams offense had 19 first downs, 9 more than what their opponents could muster, and put pressure on a defense that had not yielded a point to either of their previous opponents. The Williams defense, meanwhile, was very impressive yet again, only giving up points because of turnovers and a 46-yard field goal by one of the best kickers in NESCAC history. Yet again, they gave their offense a chance to win, keeping the game close against a heavily-favored opponent. Possibly even more than their last two wins, this game will send a message to all of the team's future opponents.
The Bantams just edged out the Ephs on total offense, with a tally of 275 yards to 251. Bobby Maimaron was 16 for 35 with 164 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Sonny Puzzo, Trinity's quarterback, was 14 for 22 with 163 yards and a touchdown.
This week was yet again a bright spot for Connor Harris and Justin Nelson. The duo often led drives upfield with Maimaron, and in the process, taking the pressure away from their teammates. Harris had 19 carries for 76 yards, including a 20-yard run and a 15-yard touchdown catch, while Nelson led the receiving corps with 6 catches for 59 yards. For the Bantams, Max Chipouras garnered 80 yards on 28 carries, while Koby Schofer had 4 catches for 46 yards and a score.
Luke Apuzzi '20 and TJ Rothman led the Ephs defense with 10 tackles, while Chris Hattar '18 had a sack on the day along with 5 tackles. Junior defensive back Amyhr Barber was also impressive, breaking up 3 passes on the day. The Trinity defense was led by Carty Campbell, who, in addition to his crucial interception, had 8 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
"Our team showed a lot of poise and toughness today," said head coach Mark Raymond. "Unfortunately, the turnovers were very costly. Credit to Trinity for cashing in on them."
The men will look to rebound next week against the Bates College Bobcats (0-3). Bates had also lost to Trinity, who beat them 51-0. The game will take place at Farley-Lamb Field at 1:00 PM in Williamstown.