The Perfect Swarm
By Leon Rauch '12, Staff Writer
As a result of winning the NESCAC championship last year en route to an unforgettable perfect season, the Lord Jeffs football squad made it emphatically clear that they’re the new kings of the hill until someone proves otherwise. In addition to finishing 8-0, the Jeffs earned a host of team and individual honors, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, thanks to the efforts of stalwart defenders like 2009 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year winner Mike Taylor ’09, Eric Pender ’09 and Edwin Urey ’09, all three of whom were named to the All-NESCAC First Team.

The Jeffs’ veritable defensive iron wall allowed only three rushing touchdowns during the 2009 season and was a major reason Amherst took its very first outright NESCAC championship title; not to mention the Little Three championship and a thrilling clutch victory over archrival Williams in the last game of the season. The victory at Williams was especially gratifying since it marked the Lord Jeffs’ first triumph over the Ephs since 2004 and their first win at Williams’ Weston Field since 1985.

Outstanding as the accomplishments were last season, 2009 is history; and if the Lord Jeffs are to extend their winning ways, they must work all the harder without many of the veteran players of the Class of 2009. Under the guidance of 2009 NESCAC Coach of the Year E.J. Mills and senior captains Alex Vetras, Femi Oyalowo and Brandon Quinn, the Jeffs plan once again to frustrate all comers during the upcoming 2010 season.

This year’s season opens against Bates College at Pratt Field on Sept. 25. Amherst has not played Bates since the 2007 season, when the Jeffs beat them convincingly 24-0. But a lot can change in three years and the match-up should be interesting. Following the Bobcats, the Jeffs hit the road to take on the Polar Bears, strong contenders who came within a hair’s breadth of foiling Amherst’s perfect season last year before sliding to a 13-12 loss. Despite finishing last season with a 3-5 record, Bowdoin could prove to be one of the more formidable opponents in NESCAC play for the Jeffs.

Heading off a week later to Panther country in Vermont, the Jeffs will be tested by Middlebury, a team that finished with a 5-3 record in the 2009 campaign. Though beaten 20-10 last year by the Jeffs, the Panthers always give the Jeffs all they can handle, especially in their home den. Back home at Pratt Field a week later, the Jeffs will host the Mules, a squad that finished with a respectable .500 winning percentage last season, although historically Amherst has dominated Colby and beaten them five straight in recent meetings.

The third-to-last game of the season brings the Lord Jeffs to the home turf of Wesleyan, last year’s Homecoming opponent — a game in which the Jeffs throttled the Cardinals 23-0; but 2010 marks the return of Wesleyan alumnus and former Williams head coach Mike Whalen, who led the Ephs to several successful seasons during his time in Williamstown. Next up, Family Weekend on Oct. 30th, when friends and family will watch the Jeffs take on the Jumbos and hopefully witness a victory in the process. Last year, Tufts finished a lowly 2-6, including a 13-3 loss to Amherst in Jumbo country, and should find the sledding even tougher on Amherst’s home turf.

Building up to their season finale at home against Williams in what is sure to be an exciting, crowded and noisy Homecoming, the Amherst squad will head to Connecticut to face off against the Bantams. Despite last year’s 23-12 victory over the Bantams, the 2008 match-up between the two teams proved to be another matter, when the Jeffs were handily spanked 30-13 on the road.

Wrapping up the 2010 season is the “Biggest Little Game in America”: Amherst vs. Williams. Few other collegiate rivalries boast the gamut of emotions, pride and sense of tradition that this annual contest evokes, and that it happens to fall on Homecoming weekend will only make this contest more memorable. Since 1884, Williams has been Amherst’s most formidable foe, and the Purple Cows lead the series overall with a record of 70-48-5. Williams’ new coach Aaron Kelton and the rest of the Eph squad, including talented running back Ryan Lupo, will no doubt be looking for sweet revenge after last year’s loss, which deprived them of a share of the NESCAC title.

In sum, there can be little doubt that Amherst has their work cut out for them this season, as every opponent will bring their best effort to unseat the defending champs. But with their stalwart defense and tenacity, the Jeffs’ quest for back-to-back titles is very much a realistic goal.

Issue 01, Submitted 2010-09-02 16:08:01