Playing in front of a huge crowd of students, parents, and alumni, the Wesleyan football team crushed Williams 27-7 to put the icing on the cake of a successful homecoming game. Now sitting at 5-2 on the season, the Cardinals are guaranteed a winning record for the fourth year in a row. The Ephs dropped to 2-5 with the loss.
“I feel like our team played a great game on Saturday,” said Jaylen Berry ’18. “The home crowd played a huge role in our success and it was great to have them behind us for the extra boost.”
The Cardinals dominated on defense and special teams, forcing three turnovers and holding Williams to just one touchdown on the day. Jon Spivey ’16 and Jordan Stone ’17 led the team in tackles with eight apiece. Meanwhile, Justin Sanchez ’17 had a great game with a forced fumble, an interception, and six tackles. The Cardinals held the Ephs’ passing game in check, breaking up five pass attempts throughout the course of the game.
The Cardinals kept the Ephs guessing on defense with a varied offensive attack. Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ’19 completed 11 of 14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, while Gernald Hawkins ’18 had eight completions on 12 tries for 61 yards to go along with his 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Berry, who ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 rushes, led the charge for Wesleyan’s run game. Eric Meyreles ’18 and Mike Breuler ’18 led the receiving corps with 64 yards on five receptions and a TD and six catches for 44 yards, respectively.
“I put in a ton of work this off season to be a major contributor this year,” said Berry. “But I have to recognize the offensive coaching staff first… as well as all my offensive linemen who have really been consistent and aggressive in their approach to making things happen for our offense.”
Though the two teams mostly traded punts in a scoreless first quarter, the Cardinals had their chances. Williams’ Mark Pomella lined up to return a Wesleyan punt late in the quarter, but was met by a crushing hit from Steve Baez ’19, which knocked the ball loose. Brandon Morris ’19 recovered the fumble to give Wesleyan great field position, but the Cards only managed to make it to the three-yard line before Ike Fuchs ’17 missed a 20-yard field goal.
The Cardinals forced yet another punt by Williams to open the second quarter, after which they went on a nine-play, 62-yard drive that ended with an acrobatic, 21-yard touchdown pass from Piccirillo to Meyreles. Fuchs tacked on the extra point to put Wesleyan up 7-0.
The Cards came right back at the Ephs on their next possession. Thanks to a pass interference penalty against Williams and a 21-yard catch by Dan Laorenza ’16, the Cards were in business at the Williams five-yard line. From there, Lou Stevens ’17 maneuvered his way into the endzone for a five-yard touchdown run, giving the Cardinals a 14-0 lead that they would take into the half.
Wesleyan kept the momentum going in the second half, as Sanchez intercepted Williams quarterback Austin Lommen on the third play from scrimmage. However, the Ephs’ defense stood tall and forced a three-and-out.
Williams was then forced to punt after its own three-and-out. Morris had another good play on special teams by tipping the Williams punt, which ended up only sailing 19 yards. Using the good field position, Piccirillo connected with Meyreles twice for gains of 13 and 19 yards to bring the ball to the four-yard line. From there, Hawkins ran it in from four yards out for the score. Though Fuchs’ kick missed the mark, the Cards went up 20-0.
It seemed that Wesleyan would give up its first points of the game when Williams running back Noah Sorrento broke off a long run, loooking like he would make it into the endzone untouched. However, Sanchez chased him down and tackled him from behind, knocking the ball loose just in front of the endzone. Zac Cuzner ’17 then jumped on the ball in the endzone for a touchback.
The next score did not come until Wesleyan secured the ball with ten minutes left in the game. Starting at the Williams 29-yard line thanks to the Cards’ stout defense pinning Williams up against their endzone, the Cardinals did not squander the opportunity. After a Williams personal foul gave Wes a first down six yards from the end zone, Piccirillo rushed to the one and Berry punched it in for the short TD. With 5:51 remaining, Wesleyan found themselves up 27-0.
The Cardinals were not able to preserve the shutout, as Williams’ Eric Smith broke free for a 54-yard run before being taken down at the one-yard line by Cuzner. However, the Ephs still managed to get on the board as Lommen hit Darrias Sime for a three-yard touchdown. The Cardinals would then run out the clock to clinch their 27-7 victory.
The Cardinals will face rival Trinity College (6-1) this Saturday in their final game of the season. With their win over Trinity this past weekend, Amherst clinched the NESCAC title, but the Cardinals still want to end their season on a high note.
“I am looking forward to playing Trinity this week and making a statement as to what we can accomplish as a team and an offense,” said Berry.