Second Half Surge Not Enough as Football Falls Short

On Saturday, Nov. 13, the "Biggest Little Game in America" returned to Pratt Field as Amherst looked to spoil Williams’ undefeated season. Down 24-6 early in the third quarter, the Mammoths’ comeback fell just short, as the team wound up losing 24-19.

Football watches as their team runs a play during the 2021 Amherst-Williams game.

A crucial NESCAC showdown between the oldest collegiate rivals in the country did not disappoint, as a strong second-half surge by the Mammoths fell just short against the undefeated Williams Ephs at the homecoming game on Saturday, Nov. 13.

In what has long been touted as the “Biggest Little Game in America” between the two rival schools, the Mammoths looked to put an end to the Ephs’ pristine 8-0 2021 record. The Ephs, who had already clinched the coveted NESCAC championship, rolled into Pratt field with  their first  undefeated season since 2010 on the line.

The Williams defense wasted no time setting the tone in the early going, maintaining their recent dominance, having held their opponents to just three total points in their previous two games. An interception by Ephs defensive back Edward Manzella on the third play of the game put Williams in the driver’s seat early on. Contrary to the Mammoths, the Ephs worked efficiently on their own first drive — advancing 51 yards in four plays — capped by a 35-yard touchdown connection between Williams quarterback Bobby Maimaron and tailback Mario Fischetti to open up the game 7-0.

However, Amherst would not remain silent, as they marched 57 yards in 10 plays to set up a first-and-goal on the seven-yard line. Quarterback Chad Peterson ’23 got into a groove early, completing each of his first four pass attempts during the drive, including a 33-yard dime to wide receiver Owen Gaydos ’25. However, a sack by Williams’ Calvin Jackson on the ensuing third-and-four halted the Mammoths’ advance — holding them to three points.

The Williams’ offense maintained their rhythm on their next drive, relying on both their running and passing game. This balanced attack enabled the Ephs to march 59 yards on eight plays to set up another first-and-goal. This time though, the Amherst defense showed their resolve, marked by a five-yard tackle for loss on a third-down rushing attempt by Maimaron that would prove crucial to holding the Ephs to three points. Thus, Amherst entered the second quarter down by only a touchdown with the score sitting at 10-3.

Once again, the Ephs struck early to open the quarter. On a second-and-seven around midfield, Fischetti scampered 48 yards downfield, all the way to the Amherst two-yard line, to quickly set up a first-and-goal situation. Ephs tailback Joel Nicholas converted on his second rushing attempt at the goalline to put the Ephs ahead 17-3. For the remainder of the first half, stout defense from both sides forced consecutive, abbreviated drives — including three three-and-outs in the span of four minutes.  

But the game’s rapid pace would return, as Manzella came up big for the Ephs defense once again, intercepting his second pass of the day on Amherst’s first drive of the quarter. The Amherst defense responded quickly, as with six minutes remaining in the half, Raymond Dixon ’24 came up with an interception of his own on a pass attempt from Maimaron.

Amherst would eat into the lead with three minutes remaining in the half, putting together an extended drive of 11 plays for 75 yards. Starting on their own six-yard line, Peterson was instrumental in marching the Mammoths’ offense downfield — completing four straight passes for 58 yards — all the way to the Williams 17-yard line. Once again, however, Amherst could not find a way into the endzone, thus kicking another field goal to bring the score to 17-6 to end the first half.

The Williams offense showed no let-up to open the second half, orchestrating their most efficient drive of the game — marching 86 yards from their own seven-yard line on six plays. A 67-yard strike from Maimaron later set up a seven-yard touchdown pass from him to tight end Justin Burke, and widened the lead to 24-6.

Following another three-and-out from the Mammoths’ offense, the Ephs threatened to score once again, setting up a first-and-goal on the Amherst six-yard line. The Amherst defense would not relent, however, coming up with their trademark clutch play in the endzone. On a fourth-and-one that could have sealed the game, defensive lineman Brett Bates ’22 forced a huge fumble from Nicholas that was quickly recovered by fellow lineman Manni Malone ’23 to halt the Ephs offense in their tracks.

With newfound vigor and a sizable gap to reduce, the Amherst offense worked efficiently to capitalize on their defense’s clutch play. Finding success with a mixture of their aerial and ground attack, the Mammoths put together their best drive of the game, covering 79 yards in nine plays. Peterson maintained his strong play, finding wide receiver Joe Masterson ’22 on a 13-yard completion to finally put the Mammoths in the endzone with 32 seconds left in the third quarter. Thus, the Mammoths entered the decisive fourth quarter down 24-13.

After forcing a three-and-out to open the quarter, the Mammoths’ offense kept rolling as their steady diet of run and pass continued to gash the Ephs defense. After entering the red zone in just six plays, a two-yard rush from wide receiver Carson Ochsenhirt ’23 secured another Amherst touchdown, bringing the game to within one score at 24-19. However, the Mammoths could not bring the score to within field goal range, as the Ephs defense thwarted the subsequent two-point conversion attempt. With 12 minutes left in the final quarter, the Mammoths looked to complete their comeback attempt, only down five.

Neither the Mammoths’ defense nor the Ephs’ defense would relent, however, as neither offense put together a drive that put them within striking distance of the endzone. With the score unchanged, and 3:29 remaining in the game, the Ephs defense forced four consecutive incompletions to give their offense the ball back with little time remaining. On Amherst’s final, game-deciding drive with only 12 seconds remaining on the clock, the Ephs defense once again came up with a clutch play, as defensive back James Hemmer came up with their third team interception to seal the game. And so, the game would end with the Williams Ephs securing an undefeated season  with a 24-19 win over Amherst.

Masterson paced the Amherst offense with 115 receiving yards and one touchdown on six receptions, in addition to recording 97 yards on five kickoff returns.  Peterson threw for 256 yards and one touchdown on 44 pass attempts. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Tim Swope ’24 recorded 10 total tackles, eight of which were solo tackles. Dixon recorded Amherst’s sole interception of the game.

The Mammoths finished their 2021 season with a record of five wins and four losses. Meanwhile, the Ephs secured their first NESCAC title since 2010 with a perfect record of nine wins and zero losses. With their NESCAC games now completed, the team will look to improve upon their record next year, with Mammoth football returning to Pratt Field in the fall of 2022.