Finally a solid game in week 4 between Amherst and Middlebury. As I predicted, Midd came out on top, but not for the reasons that I had thought. In the rest of the league, things went as expected, and Williams continued their rise into the top tier of the NESCAC, seeing their young players continue to make plays leaps and bounds ahead of the Ephs timetable for rebuilding. The future is now, and they are the real deal. The rest of the league performed pretty ordinarily, but some individual performances, both good and bad, are noteworthy.
Middlebury needed to get a shout out here after beating their second top NESCAC team of the season, improving to 4-0. With wins against Wesleyan and Amherst, they now only have Tufts and Trinity (Williams is still TBD) as daunting opponents. While their receiving depth has been my favorite part of the team this season, offering Jared Lebowitz ’18 all the targets he could ask for, the running game is showing development, and the secondary is turning it on. With Diego Meritus ’19 still out (I keep hearing week in and week out he is coming back the next game—I no longer trust my sources) they still managed to make an impact on the ground with several different backs these last few weeks. Their secondary picked off Reece Foy twice and turned them into pick-sixes, putting the Panthers over the edge. Wesley Becton and Kevin Hopsicker joined the long list of Midd players that are now big time playmakers and with such depth, Trinity should watch out.
Williams Rushing Attack
While Bobby Maimaron ’21 and his fellow young Eph receivers have been the subject of high praise early on this year, for good reason, the run game showed against Bates last weekend that it deserves press recognition too. Rashad Morrison made the most out of his five carries on Saturday as he rushed for 85 yards (17 per carry!), while fellow teammates Connor Harris, Maimaron, and Steve Bohling accumulated a combined 174 additional yards. Each of Williams’ top four rushers averaged over five yards per carry, and while it was against a weak Bobcat defense, these numbers are still significant as they will need a balanced offensive attack to compete against Midd and Tufts in their upcoming games.
1. Amherst’s Title Hopes
And another undefeated team has fallen. This turned out to be a 35-31 one possession result, but in reality it wasn’t as close as the box score indicates. This game, played on the Mammoths’ home turf, was 35-17 with just over 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and if it wasn’t for two unanswered Amherst TDs then it would’ve looked like an easy win for Midd. This was Ollie Eberth’s first test against a solid opponent and he did fine–not great, not bad. He has limited running capabilities but really throws well to James O’Reagan. And with solid games from both Jack Hickey and Hasani Figueroa, their ground game was awesome. Here is the problem: They won’t be able to outscore Trinity, and Lebowitz was still able to have a solid day under center despite only 14 offensive points scored. Their defense is good, but not Trinity-esque, and with one loss already on their record, they need to go through the Bantams to have a shot at the title. What they needed was vintage Reece Foy. Up until last weekend, I believed that after working back in to live action slowly, they could again see the former POY candidate as his old self. However, after a brief two INT performance lacking any spark (-2.2 yards per rush), he doesn’t look to be the guy to take them to the top. Amherst is still a solid team in this conference, but won’t win any rings this year and now lack the potential to knock off the top teams that glimmered whenever Foy’s name was mentioned. They showed some hope in their rush defense against Midd, and they will need to bring that again and then some to stop Dario Highsmith this weekend.
This is similar to the stock down report on the unsurprising results from a week ago, but it really is something that disappoints me as a fan of the underdog. There has not been a single real upset in NESCAC football this year. Sure, Williams is now a contender and wasn’t last year (far from it as they were winless) but it didn’t shock anybody when they beat fellow second tier teams from a year ago in Bates, Colby, and Bowdoin. Their good performance against Trinity and Hamilton’s near win against Tufts were almost upsets, but they didn’t happen. So I’m sticking to my guns and saying that not a single upset has happened in 2017. Not one bottom tier team has beaten a top tier team. Even Amherst, a team caught in the middle of the NESCAC last year, couldn’t beat Middlebury. Maybe the NESCAC should adopt a first and second division soccer style where the lower teams of Colby, Bowdoin, Bates, Hamilton, and Williams are in the second division, and at the end of the year the top team gets to move up to the first division. Then the loser of the first division between Trinity, Midd, Amherst, Wesleyan, and Tufts would drop down for the following year. Williams would be on pace to win the lower division. Obviously it is a ridiculous proposal that wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen, but it would be nice to see some unexpected results and not all of these assured wins for the top teams. It allows them to play with a blindfold on and not worry about whether they will win for weeks at a time. Again, this problem could be solved with playoffs. A fan can hope.
2b. Validity of Statistics
Because this weekend went nearly exactly how I expected it to, there’s not a whole lot to say about stocks that went down because for so many teams, it can’t really get much worse. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and Hamilton all had hard schedules to start the season, resulting in each of their 0-4 records, so I guess their morale is pretty low. But for the teams who they have played, especially this last weekend, the scores were run up so high, it’s almost as if the entire games were played in garbage time. Wesleyan, Tufts, Trinity, and Williams all scored north of 30 points, each winning by a margin of over three possessions. Four TDs for Mark Piccirillo, four total TDs for Bobby Maimaron, three TDs for Sonny Puzzo, two TDs for Max Chipouras, two total TDs for Ryan McDonald. These stats get so inflated at the consequence of bad defense just as much as offensive prowess. It’s hard to distinguish who the best players are sometimes because aggregate season stats aren’t particular on which team they were collected against. The value of each touchdown should be measured against its importance in a game as some of these are accumulated without significant challenge.