The second week of NESCAC football had its share of close games and lopsided outcomes. The conference may be hard-pressed to find a better game than the one that Williams and Tufts played on Saturday in Somerville.
The Ephs and the Jumbos went into overtime in a game that couldn't have been more even. Eventually, Joel Nicholas' four-yard run in the first overtime period gave the Ephs a 32-29 win, improving their record to 2-0.
Joel Nicholas' 4-yard touchdown run in the first overtime period gave Williams a 32-29 win over Tufts, as the Ephs improve to 2-0.
However, the game might also have fallen into a category that this quote from 15-year Major League Baseball player Rico Carty: "They say you have to be good to be lucky, but I think you have to be lucky to be good."
Case in point, the difference in Saturday's game came down to a pair of legs, the left leg of Williams kicker Ivan Shuran and the right leg of Tufts kicker Sal LoCoco.
Both kickers are first-years at their respective schools. Looking back on Saturday's game, it would be fair to say that Shuran's success and LoCoco's problems helped decide the game.
Shuran kicked a 33-yard field goal with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. He probably made the biggest kick of the game late in the third quarter, when his 44-yard boot was good, giving Williams a 16-12 lead at that point. Shuran, the NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week was fortunate on the 44 yarder, as it hit the crossbar and bounced over for the three points. Just as frequently, a ball will hit the crossbar and deflect into the end zone.
On the 33-yard kick that sent the game into overtime, Williams coach Mark Raymond said "Ivan doesn't seem to be bothered by much. He hammered the first one in, and after the timeout, he calmly just hammered the second one in, too. I don't think there was any doubt in his mind that he was going to make it."
The 33-yard kick would have been good another 10 yards back.
LoCoco, however, had some bad luck when two of his extra-point kicks were blocked by Williams defenders. Had either been good, the chances of overtime would have been diminished. In fact, Patrick Walsh did the rest of the kicking, making two point-after kicks and a 40-yard field goal in overtime, one that would have been good from 50.
In two games, Shuran has yet to miss a kick. He was 4 for 4 in extra points in the 41-13 win over Middlebury. The fifth PAT attempt was a pass after a bad snap from center. The Medina, Ohio product was 2 for 2 on PAT kicks against Tufts. Again the failed PAT was on a run.
Shuran has kicked off 13 times in 2021, and has recorded seven touchbacks. He had two touchbacks against Tufts and boots the ball high enough for the coverage team to keep the returners pinned in their own territory. Of the six kickoffs against Tufts, the best starting field position for the Jumbos was their 23-yard line.
Now, as to the overtime.
Williams elected to play defense first. Tufts quarterback Matt Crowley hit an official with his first-down pass. After O.J. Armstrong gained two yards, Crowley's pass in the end zone for Jackson Butler was incomplete. Walsh came in and boomed the field goal.
On the Ephs' first play, quarterback Bobby Maimaron found Frank Stola on a post pattern for 17 yards and a first down on the Tufts 8-yard line. Maimaron was 14 for 28 for 198 yards and a touchdown. Stola caught five balls for 83 yards.
Maimaron gained four yards on a run, and facing second-and-goal from the 4, handed off to Joel Nicholas, who got to the end zone fairly untouched. Tight end Mike Bedard, left guard John Rooney and left tackle John Freeman opened a big hole for the TD run.
Nicholas ran for 99 yards on 22 carries.
Defensively, linebacker Coleston Smith had 13 tackles to lead the Ephs. Tim Landolfi, a linebacker making his first extensive appearance as an Eph, had five tackles. He was in the game for linebacker Jarrett Wesner.
Players of the Week
In addition to Shuran, Trinity receiver DeVante Reid is the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week, and Colby defensive back Brett Holmes is the Defensive Player of the Week.
Reid caught 11 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown in Trinity's 38-14 win over Bowdoin. He is averaging 127.5 yards per game, leading NESCAC. Holmes intercepted two passes as Colby beat Amherst 10-7. It was the Mules' first win over the Mammoths in 22 years.
Game of the Week
Certainly, the Williams-Tufts game was Game of the Week No. 1, but it would be fair to call the Colby-Amherst contest Game of the Week 1-A.
The Mules shocked the Mammoths 10-7 in the Pioneer Valley. It marked the first time Colby had beaten Amherst since 1995, and the first time the Mules had won a game in Amherst since 1994.
Three times, the Colby secondary picked off Amherst quarterbacks. Brad Breckenrid was intercepted twice, while Chad Peterson was picked once. Peterson was also sacked three times.
The Mammoths, according to the stat sheets, had the better of play. They ran for 101 yards and threw for 162. Colby threw for 146 yards but ran for a paltry 24 yards.
Each team had a first-half touchdown, but neither team scored until Moises Celaya kicked a 38-yard field goal with 8:54 left in regulation to cap off a nine-play, 62-yard drive.
Special teams had a hand in this game. Michael Mitchel's 40-yard punt for the Mammoths in the fourth quarter pinned Colby on its 5-yard line. The Amherst defense stuffed the Mules, and a short punt gave Amherst the ball on the Colby 41. The Mammoths drove the ball to the Colby 15, where a made field goal would have tied things.
Kellen Field ran for two yards on first down. Breckenrid was stopped for no gain on second down and coach E.J. Mills called time out. Mills and his staff had a pass play, but Breckenrid's throw toward the end zone was picked off by Holmes, and Colby ran out the clock.
The week ahead
The state of Maine will be buzzing with NESCAC football. All three schools will be hosting games.
Bowdoin will be hosting Williams, while Wesleyan is at Bates and Hamilton is at Colby.
The game of the week, at least on paper, will be played in Hartford as Trinity will host Middlebury. One week after opening the renovated Ellis Oval, Tufts will be on the road at Amherst.