Williams College football team beats Bowdoin in season opener to snap 13-game losing skid
Williams traditionally sings its fight song after a win, and it had been 13 long weeks since the Eph football players had been able to sing.
"It was awesome," linebacker Luke Apuzzi said. "Last year, my freshman year, we didn't get a chance to sing it — anywhere.
"First game at home, extra game, it feels great to go up to our fans and sing."
Apuzzi and a slew of young Ephs made their 2017 debut a success Saturday afternoon. Freshman quarterback Bobby Maimaron threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, freshman receiver Frank Stola scored three touchdowns, and the Williams defense sacked Bowdoin quarterbacks five times as the Ephs earned a 28-14 win at Farley-Lamb Field.
It was the first game in NESCAC's new nine-game, round-robin schedule. The history-making game goes down in the Williams win column.
The win also ended a 13-game losing streak for the Ephs, who hadn't won since beating Bates on Oct. 10, 2015. Last year, in head coach Mark Raymond's first season, the Ephs had their first 0-8 year since 1947.
"I'm really proud of these guys," said Raymond. "They played with great determination and played hard. They had a few tough situations in the game, but they hung in there."
The second-year head coach was ready, able and willing to credit everyone on the Williams roster with helping get win No. 1.
"It's hard to pinpoint guys," he said. "We just played a really solid team game."
First among equals, however, was the pitch-and-catch combination of Maimaron and Stola.
Maimaron, who broke Doug Flutie's Massachusetts high school touchdown pass record while at Duxbury High School, got the start Saturday. It's the second time in as many seasons that Raymond went with a quarterback who threw his first college pass in the opener. Maimaron beat out last year's starter Jansen Durham and senior John Gannon.
"It's been really back and forth. We had a good battle at camp," said the freshman quarterback. "The QBs had their shot. At the beginning of the week, it was kind of made a little bit clear that I probably was going to come out and start.
"I can't say enough about John and Jansen and Will Cotter, my co-workers in the quarterback position. They really helped me through it all."
It took the Williams offense a little while to get rolling. The Ephs had only one first down in its first five possessions.
"I think a lot of it was field position," said Maimaron. "Field position and coming out as a freshman, not really knowing what to expect. I feel like the first [few] drives, everything was flying by and you feel like you're not up to the speed of the game."
The offense kicked the door down early in the second quarter. A 33-yard punt by Bowdoin's Michael Chen pinned the Ephs back on their seven-yard line. On the first play, Maimaron hit Stola in stride, and the freshman from Long Island outran the Polar Bear secondary and took it in for his first career touchdown. It was the longest touchdown pass for Williams since Tyler Patterson caught a 79-yard TD pass from Durham last year against Middlebury.
"It was pretty much an isolation pass. The safeties cleared out and it was just me on the corner. All I saw was green," said Stola. "Everything worked out perfectly."
Stola caught seven passes for 168 yards, ran the ball three times for 12 yards — including a one-yard TD run in the third quarter — and had six kick returns for 70 yards.
Freshman tight end Justin Burke, one of five freshmen to start on the offensive side, had four catches for 65 yards.
Bowdoin tied the game with a minute to go in the second quarter, converting a short punt into a one-yard run by quarterback Noah Nelson on fourth-and-goal.
Willams took the lead for keeps on the second drive of the third quarter. Taking over on its 23-yard line, Williams marched into Bowdoin territory where Maimaron hit Stola on a 23-yard TD pass.
Senior running back Connor Harris ran for 103 yards on 12 carries. His 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the longest TD run for an Eph back since Alex Scyocurka ran 33 yards for a score against Bowdoin in 2014.
The Williams defense, one that ranked near the bottom of most statistical categories last year, held the Polar Bears to 220 yards in total offense. Two freshmen, linebackers T.J. Rothman and Jarrett Wesner combined for 15 tackles, and Wesner had one of the five sacks and one tackle for loss.
Last year was most definitely last year, and to paraphrase Bill Belichick, Williams is on to 2017.
"It was real easy," to put 2016 behind them, said Apuzzi. "Obviously, it's lingering. We don't let it [bother them]. We haven't thought about it really. Other people might have thought about it, but we're not."
Bowdoin 0 7 0 7 — 14
Williams 0 7 14 7 — 28
W — Stola 93 pass from Maimaron (Park kick) 12:14.
B — Nelson 1 run (Sisti kick) 1:01.
W — Stola 23 pass from Maimaron (Park kick) 10:50.
W — Stola 1 run (Park kick), 5:37.
W— Harris 43 run (Park kick), 14:15.
B — Nelson 1 run (Sisti kick), 7:44.
First Downs 17 17
Rushes-yards 44-109 32-156
Passing yards 111 283
Comp-Att-Int 15-36-0 17-30-0
Punts-Avg 11-39.6 8 32.6
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 9-60 6-61
Third-down conversion 5-21 4-14
Fourth-down conversion 2-4 1-2
RUSHING — B: Richam 14-54, Kollmer 5-27, Markisz 12-22, Nelson 11-8, Gideon-Murphy 1-1, Stalcup 1-(minus-3). W: Harris 12-103, Dozier 3-19, Bohling 6-19, Stola 3-12, Maimaron 8-3.
PASSING — Nelson 15-35-0 111; Stalcup 0-1-0 0. W: Maimaron 17-30-0 283.
RECEIVING — B: Vailas 7-46, Porter 3-28, Milett 2-28, Markisz 1-4, Jiu 1-3, Griffin 1-2. W: Stola 7-168, Burke 4-65, Nelson 3-40, Regensburg 1-8, Bohling 1-2, Harris 1-0.
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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