Amherst College Athletics
Amherst College  
Site Map
Amherst College > Athletics > Football > 2004 Season Preview
Sean Carroll '05
Senior Sean Carroll, the lone returning starter on the offensive line, will help key one of the strongest rushing attacks in the NESCAC.

Jeffs Eye Return to Prominence After Season of Near Misses

September 7, 2004

2003 was a season of incredible highs and discouraging near misses for an Amherst football team that battled injuries and bizarre happenstance en route to a trying 4-4 campaign. On one hand, the Jeffs tied a NESCAC record with four dominating shutout victories, pounding Bates, Bowdoin, Colby and Wesleyan by a combined score of 127-0. On the other, each of Amherst’s four excruciating losses came by a touchdown or less, with victory well within reach on each occasion. In Week 3 - a 17-14 loss at Middlebury - the Jeffs fell victim to a blocked punt for a touchdown and surrendered a game-winning scoring strike with just 1:12 left in regulation. In Week 6, Amherst rallied from a 14-7 fourth-quarter deficit to take a 17-14 lead late in the game, but host Tufts rebounded with a field goal in the final minute and a touchdown in overtime to steal a 24-17 victory. The following week against undefeated Trinity - which went on to win the NESCAC Championship with a perfect 8-0 record - Amherst took a 14-6 lead at halftime but couldn’t hold on, surrendering 14 second-half points en route to a heartbreaking 20-14 loss that featured one of the strangest plays in recent memory. Punting from deep in their own territory near the end of the third quarter, the Jeffs sent an end-over-end kick toward midfield and appeared to down the ball on their own 47. Instead, the referees ruled that Amherst only touched the ball and failed to establish possession, leaving Trinity free to scoop the ball up and streak 47 yards untouched for the score, tying the game at 14-14. And finally, in the 118th edition of the “Biggest Little Game in America”, with a pair of freshmen quarterbacks running the offense, the visiting Jeffs chipped away at an early 14-0 deficit with 10 points in the second quarter but fell just short in a season-ending 14-10 loss at archrival Williams.

Despite the sour taste of ending the season on a three-game skid, the Jeffs had much to be proud of, finishing fifth in the nation in scoring defense (9.4 ppg), ninth in total defense (242.9 ypg) and 22nd in rushing defense (104.5 ypg), while leading the NESCAC in fourth-down conversions (57.1%), opponent fourth-down conversions (20.0%) and red zone offense (82.1%). They also placed two players on the 2003 CoSIDA College Division Academic All-America Team, tying them for the most in the nation, and had six players earn All-NESCAC honors, including five first-team selections.

Amherst graduates 12 players on both sides of the ball, with the offensive line taking the biggest hit losing four starters - right guard Emmanuel Ashamu, right tackle W. Gee Roe, left tackle Matt Fitzgerald and All-NESCAC and All-East Region left guard Shane Morrow. Standout wide receiver Jim Devine also departs after leading the NESCAC with six touchdown catches, as does tight end Alex Popp, who missed the entire 2003 season due to injury but will be missed nonetheless. On defense, the Jeffs will have to do without a trio of extremely productive linebackers - Jordan Konicek, Ed Sylvester and Dan McNamara. Konicek tallied 33 tackles, including 5.0 for loss and 3.0 sacks, while Sylvester led the Jeffs and tied for sixth in the NESCAC with 70 tackles and McNamara earned First-Team All-NESCAC honors with team-highs of 30 solo tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. The defensive line will have to make do without Second-Team All-NESCAC tackle Mike Harrison and nose guard Mike Hanlon. Harrison leaves a significant hole after a 45-tackle, 4.5-sack season in 2003. The secondary will be without its anchor as well, as graduated defensive back Paul Whiting was one of the most highly decorated Amherst athletes in recent memory, earning First-Team All-NESCAC, ECAC Division III Northeast All-Star and CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in addition to countless individual awards for his dedication to community service.

Jay Wagstaff '05
Two-time All-NESCAC receiver Jay Wagstaff '05 doubles as the Jeffs' top kick and punt returner.
Despite losing a large chunk of its o-line, offense will again be a strong suit for Amherst, especially at quarterback, where scrappy senior Marsh Moseley is a seasoned veteran with 16 starts under his belt. After bursting on the scene with a pair of NESCAC Rookie of the Week selections as a freshman, he threw for 11 touchdowns and 945 yards as a sophomore and finished third in the NESCAC in pass efficiency (114.6) and fifth in total offense (170.6 ypg) as a junior. Waiting in the wings are a pair of outstanding sophomores in Nick Kehoe and John Polignone, each of whom saw action as freshmen while Moseley battled late-season injuries.

In the backfield, the Jeffs boast one of the strongest corps of running backs in the nation, including five stellar tailbacks. The best of the bunch - and one of the best ever at Amherst - is senior quad-captain Fletcher Ladd, a Second-Team CoSIDA Academic All-America and three-time All-NESCAC selection. Ladd had quite a season in 2003, earning NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors with 166 rushing yards, highlighted by a school-record 90-yard touchdown run, in Amherst’s season-opening 34-0 win at Bates. He then pierced the career 2,000-yard rushing plateau with a 21-yard jaunt against Bowdoin and finished the season second in the NESCAC in rushing (111.8 ypg), third in rushing touchdowns (7), fourth in overall scoring (5.2 ppg), fifth in all-purpose yards (120.9 ypg) and ninth in total offense (114.1 ypg). With 2,680 career rushing yards, Ladd is just 236 yards shy of the college’s all-time record of 2,916, held by Josh Mason ’97. As if Ladd weren’t enough, fellow senior Matt Monteith emerged as a similarly devastating force in 2003, matching Ladd’s seven rushing touchdowns and earning NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors with 157 yards and a trio of touchdown runs in a lopsided 41-0 Homecoming win over Wesleyan. While Ladd and Monteith are physical, punishing ball-carriers, fleet-footed junior Ngai Otieno adds a healthy dose of speed to the mix. Somewhat limited by injuries last season, Otieno turned heads as a rookie, torching archrival Williams for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a memorable 45-35 Amherst win. Junior Dom Cama and sophomore Will Beeson also saw action last season and are more than capable of stepping to the forefront. At fullback, senior Chris Conroy returns after a year away from the gridiron. He’ll compete for the starting nod with sophomore Chris Hoffman, a standout attackman on the Amherst lacrosse team, and senior T. Bennett, who sat out last season.

The Jeffs’ main receiving threat is senior quad-captain Jay Wagstaff, a two-time All-NESCAC speed-burner who finished fourth in the NESCAC in receptions per game (5.50), sixth in receiving yards per game (56.6) and seventh in all-purpose yards (113.1 ypg) as a junior. He’s joined by classmate Taharqa Patterson, who caught just three passes in 2003, and sophomores Mark Hannon, Justin Macione and Idris McClain, who also saw limited action.

The lone returning starter on the offensive line is senior center Sean Carroll, and his experience will be counted on heavily with a host of new faces joining him up front. Junior Gavin Weeks and sophomore Ryan Smith are a good bet to man the tackle slots, while senior Chris Riordan and sophomores Matt Masciloi and Nate Riccardi are poised to step in at the guard positions.

At tight end, senior Ryan Sykes is a returning starter, hauling in 15 catches for 188 yards as a junior. The coaching staff is also keen on big-bodied, athletic sophomore Parnell Adam.

Bob Sargent '05 & Dave Borgonzi '05
Seniors Bob Sargent (left) and Dave Borgonzi (right) head a unit that finished fifth in the nation in scoring defense in 2003.
Defense is always a point of pride at Amherst with the Jeffs registering 12 shutouts over the last four seasons, and 2004 is no exception, especially at inside linebacker, where senior quad-captain Dave Borgonzi anchors the unit as a returning starter. Borgonzi has been a tackling machine, tallying 49 takedowns as a junior despite missing a pair of games due to injury, and a team-high 73 tackles as a sophomore, including 34 solos and 3.5 for loss. He’ll be joined by savvy veteran Mike Salvatore, who gained national attention as a sophomore, torching Bowdoin for a game-high 17 tackles, a sack and an interception in his first career start, earning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week, ECAC Player of the Week and Don Hansen’s Weekly Football Gazette National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Salvatore added 27 tackles, including 14 solos and 4.0 for loss, as a junior. Sophomore Greg Muecke was a standout special teamer as a rookie and should also see action at inside linebacker, as should fellow sophomore Kipp Weiskopf.

At outside linebacker, junior Justin Roemer is the best bet to fill the graduated McNamara’s shoes after an 18-tackle sophomore campaign. Junior Joe Bickerstaffe, a converted quarterback, will vie for time as well. Sophomore Dakota Jones and junior Kelvin Coker also look to step to the forefront after combining for 14 tackles in 2003.

On the defensive line, the Jeffs have more than enough firepower to reload in Hanlon and Harrison’s absence. Senior quad-captain B.J. Gaddour returns as a starter at tackle, having led the team with 5.5 sacks as a junior. Junior Dan Kovolisky and sophomore Brendan McKee will battle it out for the other tackle slot. Kovolisky is the more seasoned of the two, coming off a 15-tackle campaign. Junior nose tackle L.J. Spinnato rounds out the defensive line after two seasons as a competent reserve.

The secondary graduated its premier corner (Whiting), but the rest of the unit remains virtually intact with senior Rob Walsh returning as a starting corner and fellow seniors Chris Scarpelli and Bob Sargent back as the starting strong and free safeties, respectively. Scarpelli paced the secondary with 36 tackles, to go along with an interception and four pass breakups, in 2003, while Walsh and Sargent registered 33 tackles each and combined for 10 pass breakups. Junior Nick Zieler saw a ton of action last season (22 tackles, three pass breakups) and could step in as a starting corner. Senior Bryan Dolan is another veteran safety with 15 tackles as a junior, while sophomores Mike Salerno and Pat Sandor should see increased playing time. Fellow sophomore Marcus Meikle, a converted running back, will add depth to an already potent unit.

Amherst’s kicking game is one again strong with senior David Bodner back for his fourth season as one of the premier place-kickers in the region. Bodner earned his stripes as a sophomore, leading the conference and smashing a school and league record with eight field goals, gaining First-Team All-NESCAC and Second-Team ECAC Division III Northeast All-Star honors. As a junior, Bodner paced the NESCAC in PAT kicking percentage (87.0%) and finished second among place-kickers in scoring (4.8 ppg). Sophomores Mark Hannon and John Polignone split the punting chores in 2003 to the tune of a 30.5-yard average, including 11 boots inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The return game is also a major strength behind senior quad-captain Jay Wagstaff, a two-time all-conference pick who topped the conference in punt return average (14.1 yards per return) in 2002 and finished third (10.0 yards per return) in 2003.

The Jeffs will play a challenging eight-game NESCAC slate, highlighted by the season opener against visiting Hamilton on September 25th, followed by a regionally televised clash at Little Three rival Wesleyan on October 23rd and a Family Weekend matchup with visiting Tufts on October 30. Amherst closes its season with a November 13th Homecoming clash against visiting Archrival Williams in the 119th meeting of the “Biggest Little Game in America”, which will air live on the New England Sports Network (NESN) and via tape delay on College Sports Television (CSTV).