|2005 Football Season Preview|
Youthful Jeffs Set Sights on Second Straight Little Three Crown
September 7, 2005
The Amherst football team captured the coveted Little Three Championship in 2004 with a 38-3 victory at Wesleyan and a 13-10 Homecoming win over visiting Williams and finished fourth in the final New England Division III Football Poll with a 6-2 overall record. The Jeffs opened the season with a 592-yard offensive explosion, including 389 on the ground, and relinquished just 77 yards on defense in a 44-7 win over visiting Hamilton. They followed with thrilling victories at Bowdoin and Middlebury, overcoming a 21-point comeback from Bowdoin in a 34-28 double-overtime win and taking a strategic late-game safety, only to return a fumble for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, to secure a 34-26 victory over Middlebury and move to 3-0. Stout defense and special teams carried Amherst to a win over Colby as the Jeffs used a punt return for a touchdown, a field goal and a safety en route to a 19-10 victory, and improved to 5-0 with their win at Wesleyan. Amherst stumbled the following week in a rain-soaked 10-3 loss to Tufts and suffered a 38-7 defeat at the hands of undefeated NESCAC Champion Trinity, but rebounded in the Homecoming season finale with a come-from-behind win over archrival Williams to secure a second-place tie in the final conference standings.
Amherst finished the season 16th in the nation in
pass efficiency defense (87.3), 23rd in rushing offense (241.2 ypg)
and 25th in scoring defense (15.6 ppg). The Jeffs also ranked among
the conference leaders in a bevy of categories including scoring offense
(24.0 ppg), rushing offense and total offense (355.9 ypg). They had
six players earn all-conference honors, including four first-team selections,
and were the only NESCAC team represented on the 2004 CoSIDA College
Division Academic All-District team with two first-team honorees.
Amherst graduates an outstanding class of 18 players, taking substantial hits on both sides of the ball. No player will be missed more than quad-captain tailback Fletcher Ladd, who finished as the college's all-time leading rusher with 3,817 yards over four seasons. Ladd earned several honors in his final campaign, including the 59th-Annual Nils V. "Swede" Nelson Award, presented by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston for outstanding achievement in academics, athletics, sportsmanship and citizenship; ECAC Division III Northeast Player of the Year; and NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year. Leading the conference and finishing 14th in the nation with 142.1 rushing yards per game, Ladd claimed his fourth consecutive All-NESCAC award, was tabbed a First-Team ECAC Division III Northeast All-Star and was one of only 28 players named to the 2004 New England Football Writers Division II/III All-New England Team. Also departing from the offense are quarterback Marsh Moseley, quad-captain wideout Jay Wagstaff, running backs Matt Monteith, Chris Conroy and T. Bennett, wide receiver T. Patterson, tight end Ryan Sykes and offensive linemen Sean Carroll and Chris Riordan. A three-year starter under center, Moseley graduates with 3,375 career passing yards and a 117.4 passer rating. His experience and clutch performance will be sorely missed and he will be forever remembered for his 39-yard touchdown strike to seal last year's win over Williams. Wagstaff provided a multi-dimensional threat for the Jeffs, posting 2,528 total career yards in a variety of fashions. As a senior, he led the NESCAC and finished 17th in the nation in punt return average (13.7) and ranked seventh in the conference in all-purpose yards (94.6 ypg). Along with Ladd, the departure of Monteith, Conroy and Bennett leaves a wealth of carries in the backfield, and Patterson and Sykes will be missed in the receiving core as well as for their menacing blocking abilities.
Defensively, the loss of inside linebackers Dave Borgonzi and Mike Salvatore, defensive lineman B.J. Gaddour and defensive backs Rob Walsh, Bob Sargent, Chris Scarpelli and Bryan Dolan leaves big shoes to fill. Walsh earned several honors in his final season including First-Team All-NESCAC, First-Team ECAC Division III Northeast All-Star and Third-Team Football Gazette All-East Region as he led the conference and ranked fifth and 11th, respectively, in the nation with six interceptions and 14 passes defended. Salvatore and Borgonzi placed third and fourth, respectively, in the NESCAC in tackles per game, and Sargent tied for second in the conference with four interceptions.
Place kicker David Bodner departs as well, finishing as the college's all-time
leader in most kicking categories, including career field goals (22), career
scoring (148 pts) and single-season field goals (8).
Amherst will field a youthful offense this season, anchored
by its offensive line and senior tri-captain Gavin Weeks. Weeks spearheads
a group that paved the way to 241.2 rushing yards per game in 2004 and
looks to produce similar numbers this fall. Joining him up front will
be juniors Ryan Smith and Matt Mascioli and sophomore Dan Guariglia.
The Jeff defense will be led by its ferocious front five and standout tri-captain L.J. Spinnato. With First-Team All-Conference honors, 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks to his credit last season, he leads a group of returners that looks to plug up the middle and spend a lot of time in opposing backfields. Joining him on the defensive line are classmate Dan Kovolisky, who tied Spinnato for the team lead in sacks and had a third best eight tackles for loss, and junior Brendan McKee, who expects to start for his third-straight season. Shoring up the ends are senior outside linebackers Justin Roemer, Kelvin Coker and Joe Bickerstaffe. After playing his first two seasons at inside linebacker, Roemer enjoyed an outstanding junior campaign on the end, posting 77 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, while Coker and Bickerstaffe platooned on the opposite side, combining for 47 tackles.
Junior Greg Muecke looks to lead a core of young inside linebackers after supplying some crucial minutes in his first two seasons and compiling 26 tackles in a trio of midseason starts last year. Also vying for playing time in the middle will be junior Kipp Weiskopf and sophomores Jake Spadafora, Nick Boehm and Jack Ewen Jr.
Senior tri-captain Nick Zieler is the lone returner
in the secondary but leads a talented young group of defenders who
will battle for time. Junior Mike Salerno hopes to get into the mix
along with fellow junior Pat Sandor and sophomores Rob Grammer, Nic
Aldrich and Chris Mottau.
The Jeffs expect contributions from a lot of new faces
on special teams as sophomore Keith Erzinger hopes to take on the punting
duties, while sophomore Mike Myers looks to help the kicking game along
with junior Mike Quirk, who joins the team after two seasons with the
Amherst soccer team. Salerno and Macione will assist in the punt return
duties, while Otieno, Macione and Hannon should handle kickoff returns.
The Jeffs will play another challenging eight-game slate this fall, including a season-opener against a steadily improving Hamilton team on Sept. 24, followed by a Homecoming matchup against Little Three rival Wesleyan on Oct. 22, and a family weekend tilt against three-time defending NESCAC Champions Trinity. Amherst closes its season on Nov. 12 at archrival Williams in the 120th meeting of the "Biggest Little Game in America", which will air live on the New England Sports Network (NESN).
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