AMHERST, Massachusetts -- Six members of the Amherst College football team were selected to the 1997 New England Small College Athletic Conference All-Star Team, as selected by the ten coaches of NESCAC football schools. For the second straight year, Amherst has placed more players on the All-League team than any other school. The Jeffs also claim Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second time in as many years.
Tackle Devin Moriarty (Springfield, MA) earned Defensive Player of the Year recognition as he upheld Amherst's standing as the best defense in the NESCAC. The senior finished as the Jeffs' fourth leading tackler with 52 hits (25 solo), including 16 behind the line of scrimmage, in seven games this season. Registering seven tackles for a loss of 28 yards, the Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought major also posed a lethal threat to quarterbacks as he leveled nine of Amherst's 38 sacks for 56 yards. Moriarty earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 12-tackle (5 solo), 3-sack performance in a 35-0 blanking at Colby, where he blocked a White Mule punt to set up Amherst's fourth touchdown of the day.
Linebacker Seth Zimmerman (Lewistown, PA) led the Jeffs in tackles for the third straight year as the Co-Captain finished his senior season with 87 hits (42 solo). Zimmerman recorded his third career interception late in the fourth quarter at Tufts to preserve a 14-6 Amherst victory, and he concluded his career with his best numbers in a 15-tackle (9 solo) show at Williams. Zimmerman averaged over ten hits a game, bolstered by 5.5 sacks for 34 yards, and the English major collected 258 hits (104 solo), 10.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in his career as a three-year starter for Amherst.
Junior Todd Nichols (Skaneateles, NY) makes his second appearance on the All-NESCAC team at defensive back. The free safety added five interceptions to his handful from last year, spurred on by a hat trick against Middlebury. This was his second three-interception show in five games, and Nichols earned both NESCAC and ECAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performances. A key on special teams, the Political Science major registered 258 all-purpose yards, including 242 on eight kickoff returns. His long of 60 yards set up Amherst's first touchdown against Williams while bettering his average to 30.2 yards per return. Nichols has also been named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-District team, which makes him eligible for national recognition. The junior has compiled a 3.68 average as a three-year starter for the Jeffs.
The offensive blocking of David Heaton (Milford, MA) earns the senior his second All-League honors after switching to center for his final campaign. The Political Science major made possible 331 carries for 1215 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns for the NESCAC's most potent offense. Leading the Amherst ground game was running back Darin Byrne (Winchester, MA), a junior who exploded with 142 carries for 649 yards and eight touchdowns in his first year as a starter. Byrne also emerged as a capable receiver, making 11 catches for 103 yards and one touchdown. Byrne will return for his senior season as the Jeffs' leading rusher after three 100+ yard games and three two-tally games.
Rounding out the Amherst All-Stars is senior quarterback Rich Willard (Johnstown, NY), who completed his career as one of the best passers in school history. The English major will graduate with four College records after challenging four more in the process. Willard's 26-for-44 passing for 378 yards and five touchdowns against Williams not only earned him ECAC Offensive Player of the Week honors and the College Division Coca Cola Gold Helmet Award, but also brought his career totals to 4,387 yards and 563 attempts, both College bests. His five touchdown passes also broke a record for most in a game, upping his total to 16 to tie two other signal-callers for most in a season. Willard finished the season as the second-best quarterback in the league.
Amherst finished the 1997 campaign with its second straight 7-1 record as the unofficial NESCAC Champions, along with Little III rivals Wesleyan and Williams. The Jeffs shut out three of their first four opponents, tying their own record for most in a season for NESCAC competition and vaulting Amherst to tops in the nation in scoring defense through seven games. Ranked third in the final ECAC Weekly Poll, the Jeffs were two seconds away from their first undefeated season since 1984 as Amherst finished atop the NESCAC in both offense and defense for the second straight year. The sixteen members of the Class of 1998 will graduate with a 24-7-1 record as the first class in over a decade to experience four winning football seasons.
1997 All-NESCAC Football Team
Offense Greg Altman Tufts Sr. Offensive Line David Heaton Amherst Sr. Offensive Line Pete Marino Bates Sr. Offensive Line Brad Somma Middlebury Sr. Offensive Line Greg Tirrel Trinity Sr. Offensive Line John Wilson Tufts Jr. Tight End Matt Perceval Wesleyan So. Wide Receiver A.J. Husband Middlebury Jr. Wide Receiver Matt Sigrist Williams Jr. Wide Receiver P.J. McGrail Bates Sr. Running Back John Pascucci Wesleyan Jr. Running Back Darin Byrne Amherst Jr. Running Back Rich Willard Amherst Sr. Quarterback Jeremy Riffle Bowdoin Sr. Place Kicker Defense Devin Moriarty Amherst Sr. Defensive Line Matt Nichols Tufts Sr. Defensive Line Ron Nobile Middlebury Sr. Defensive Line Kevin Saxton Bowdoin Jr. Defensive Line Andrew Drude Colby Sr. Inside Linebacker Seth Zimmerman Amherst Sr. Inside Linebacker Josh Bonifas Middlebury Sr. Outside Linebacker Frank Loverro Hamilton Sr. Outside Linebacker Craig Borsari Trinity Sr. Defensive Back Todd Nichols Amherst Jr. Defensive Back Graham McPhail Williams Sr. Defensive Back Rob Stager Wesleyan Sr. Punter Matt Perceval Wesleyan So. Return SpecialistOffensive Player of the Year: Jake Fay, Wesleyan, Sophomore, Quarterback
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Brian Holmes, Middlebury, Freshman, Running Back
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Bob Rosenthal, Bates, Freshman, Linebacker
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