Williams, Amherst football teams to renew rivalry on Saturday
WILLIAMSTOWN — When Mark Raymond's first recruiting class arrived on the Williams College campus, they did not realize their first year would be winless.
Now, four years later, they have a chance to walk off Farley-Lamb Field winners as the foundation for what has become a successful reclamation project.
"At the end of the first season, you're not really thinking about 'I wonder where we're going to be in four years.' We're thinking about, as a freshman class that year, what can we do in the immediate term to drive the team in a positive way," senior linebacker Luke Apuzzi said. "We lost a group of seniors that year, we became a year older, we had a great group ahead of us, as well. So, we were thinking about in that off-season, what could we do. Ever since then, it's been building on that. Coach Raymond and his staff have done a great job recruiting and bringing in unbelievable groups of guys that have helped in the process.
"The current senior class looked internally to see what we could do to drive the team forward."
Fast forward to 2019 and the Ephs have a chance to put an exclamation point on an outstanding season with a win over Amherst on Saturday, in the 134th renewal of the series known far and wide as "The Biggest Little Game in America."
Kickoff is set for Noon at Farley-Lamb Field. The game will be broadcast live on the New England Sports Network (NESN).
If Williams beats Amherst, it would mark the second time in three years that the Ephs have beaten the Mammoths on the football field. Williams ended a six-game losing streak two years ago when then-first year quarterback Bobby Maimaron scored on a 11-yard run in overtime in a 31-24 win. Last year, the Mammoths got a measure of revenge with a lopsided 45-14 win at Pratt Field in Amherst.
"Amherst always poses a great threat to us," said Apuzzi, a senior linebacker who had six tackles and two sacks in last week's 27-21 overtime loss at Wesleyan. "We're just going to prepare like it's every other week, even though everyone knows that there's a little something extra special about this one. Knowing it's the last game that I'll play, and being at home, it's going to be special. We're going to come out with a lot of energy."
This is Raymond's fourth Williams-Amherst game, and with a win, he can even his record in this game to 2-2.
"It's a lot of fun," he said of the rivalry game. "Our guys will be ready and so will they, so you have to be at your best."
Williams is 6-2, and a win would give them seven wins for the first time since the Ephs went 8-0 back in 2010.
The Ephs enter the game coming off a heartbreaking loss at Wesleyan last week. Had the Ephs won that game, they would be playing for the Little Three title, and a possible share of the NESCAC crown.
Maimaron's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Spiezio midway through the third quarter put Williams up 21-14. In the fourth quarter, Williams had the ball in Wesleyan territory three times, but came up empty. That included a blocked field goal.
The Cardinals responded with a 15-play, 89-yard drive and when David Estevez scored on a 2-yard run with 17 seconds left, the game was tied. Williams did not score in overtime, but Estevez did.
Raymond said that preparing for Amherst won't be a problem for his squad, even after the disappointment of last week.
"These guys have been very focused," Raymond said. "They've been able to keep things in order. I'm sure they'll be prepared no matter who it is."
"It has everything to do with our coaches," Williams tight end Kyle Horihan said. "We just do exactly what they say. We trust them, and the trust has never been there more than it is now. Even after a heartbreaking loss, the only thing we can do is trust them. They've gotten us this far."
E.J. Mills' Mammoths are 4-4. They started the year 4-1, but have lost three straight games. It's the first time Amherst has lost three straight since 2016.
Senior quarterback Ollie Eberth has accounted for two-thirds of his team's yardage. He is 127 of 232 for 1,658 yards and 14 touchdowns, while he is also the Mammoths' leading rusher with 513 yards. Eberth's top target is wide receiver James O'Regan.
In addition to his 14 touchdown passes, Eberth has thrown 12 interceptions.
On defense, Amherst's top two tacklers are defensive backs Matt Turborow and John Ballard. The Mammoths have twin brothers manning linebacker spots in sophomores Matt and John Schiano. If the last name sounds familiar, it should. They are the youngest sons of former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.
Williams, meanwhile, will enter the game with the 10th ranked scoring defense in America, giving up only 11.8 points per game.
"Amherst is obviously Amherst, and there's no way around that one," said Horihan. "I think this team has done a great job. Coach brought up the analogy of nameless and faceless. It doesn't matter who we're playing, we prepare just as we would anyone else. This is an opportunity for us to come out and leave it all out there, as the seniors will and everyone else will.
"This is a very important game for us."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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