|2006 Football Season Preview|
JEFFS READY TO TACKLE NESCAC CROWN
2005 IN REVIEW
The Amherst College football team registered another successful campaign in 2005, posting a 5-3 overal record, good for a No. 9 ranking in the final New England Division III Football Poll, and standing among the national leaders in a variety of statistical categories. The Jeffs finished fifth in the nation in total defense (240.1 ypg) and scoring defense (12.3 ppg), and ninth in pass efficiency defense (87.9). They also led he NESCAC in punt returns (9.0 yds/att) and opponents fourth-down conversions (27.8%), finished second in scoring defense (12.3 ppg), pass defense (129.6 ypg), kickoff returns (20.2 yds/att), rushing offense (209.0 ypg), total defense (240.1 ypg), pass efficiency defense (87.9), opponents first downs (107) and total offense (355.9 ypg) and placed third in total offense (391.5 ypg), pass efficiency (126.6) and first downs (151).
Amherst opened the season with a 28-3 pounding of conference host Hamilton, and after a slip against visiting Bowdoin reeled off four straight victories to rush out to a 5-1 start. Highlights of the run included a 15-0 shutout victory over visiting Middlebury, in which the defense limited the Panthers to just 106 yards of total offense, and a 37-0 blowout win over Little Three rival Wesleyan. The Jeffs outgained the Cardinals 533-92 in the outstanding homecoming victory. Amherst put Trinity’s national-best win streak to the test on family weekend, racking up 323 yards through the air despite a 30-20 loss, and finished with a hard-fought 34-23 loss at archrival Williams in the 120th meeting of “The Biggest Little Game in America.”
Seven players took home All-NESCAC honors at the season’s completion, including six first-team selections, the third most of any team in the conference.
The Jeffs lose 10 seniors to graduation this fall who all served in very active roles last season. The major hits on the offense come by way of the running game with the departure of Ngai Otieno, Dom Cama, Gavin Weeks and Parnell Adam. Otieno, a First-Team All-NESCAC and Don Hansen's Football Gazette NCAA Division III East Honorable Mention pick, was the Jeffs’ top rusher, finishing second in NESCAC in rushing (86.8 ypg), third in all-purpose yardage (98.1 ypg) and 12th in total offense (86.8 ypg). Cama handled a bulk of the carries as well, ranking 11th in the NESCAC in rushing (52.7 ypg), while Weeks, a tri-captain, was a two-year starter at tackle and Adam was a solid tight end last season providing excellent run blocking as well as six catches for 61 yards.
Major losses came on the defensive side as well with the departure of tri-captains L.J. Spinnato and Nick Zieler, and classmates Justin Roemer, Dan Kovolisky, Joe Bickerstaffe and Kelvin Coker. Spinnato, Zieler and Roemer were All-NESCAC selections, while Spinnato received all-region recognition from D3Football.com and Don Hansen's Football Gazette, while Zieler nabbed ECAC Division III Northeast All-Star Honorable Mention. Roemer finished 11th in the NESCAC in tackles (8.9/gm) and is the Jeffs’ lone special teams loss after tying for second in the conference in field goals (six). Bickerstaffe picked up Academic All-NESCAC plaudits as he and Coker combined for 50 tackles from the outside linebacker position.
The Amherst offense looks to have tremendous output this fall, returning 9-of-11 starters, including 2005 NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year Mark Hannon, and 2005 First-Team All-NESCAC quarterback Nick Kehoe. Both quad-captains, Hannon ranked 33rd in the nation and first in the NESCAC in all-purpose yardage (148.1 ypg), while Kehoe was second in the NESCAC in passing (174.2 ypg) and third in total offense (166.0 ypg). Hannon, a preseason all-region honoree who will line up at a variety of offensive positions, also led the conference in touchdowns (10) and punt return average (10.9 yds/att), ranked third in the NESCAC in receiving (64.5 ypg), seventh in receptions (4.0 cpg) and eighth in punting (33.9 ypp). Senior Justin Macione and junior Mike Myers are two of Kehoe’s other favorite targets on the field as the pair combined for 42 receptions, 657 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Rounding out the receiving corps will be junior Pat Benson, sophomores Taylor Brown, Christian Garris, Jim Eckenrode and Matt Johnson, and first-years Larry Thompson, Brandon Bullock and Will Lawton, while sophomore Greg Hagar will serve as Kehoe’s primary backup and will receive support from junior George Read, and first-years Lucas Loeffler and Vincent DiForte.
The backfield returns a solid core of support as well as sophomore Eric NeSmith comes back from an outstanding rookie campaign and senior Will Beeson rejoins the Jeffs after a knee injury last fall. NeSmith converted from defensive back to running back in the third game of last season and piled up 327 yards on 51 carries (6.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, while Beeson boasted a 7.7 yards per carry average in his junior season. Senior Marcus Meikle and sophomores Anthony Fuller and Daren Snyder bolster the tailback spot, while rookie sensation Aaron Rauh hopes to contribute as well. Returning junior fullback Chris Gillyard helped pave the way for almost 1,700 rushing yards last season and will look to improve upon that this season. Supporting him will be sophomore Alex Widen.
The Jeffs main returning strength could be in their very experienced and talented offensive line. A three-year starter and preseason all-region pick, senior Ryan Smith anchors the group and looks to move from center to right guard. Classmate Nate Riccardi looks to flank Smith at the right tackle spot, while fellow senior Matt Mascioli and junior Dan Guariglia will man the left guard and tackles positions, respectively. Sophomore Justin Wiley hopes to take over the centering duties, while junior Bobby DiGiovine, sophomores James Roth, Sam Rudman, Tim Rose and Billy Wood, and first-years Mike Greenberg, Ethan Vadal, Nick Mancusi, Ian Kane and Ryan Bone provide depth to the group. Capping off the offensive line is a fine group of tight ends, headed by juniors Blake Murphey and Matt Dunleavy. Sophomore Jay Hebb and first-year Dan Savage will battle for time as well.
The Lord Jeff defense returns five starters, the majority of which comes in the defensive backfield. Senior quad-captain safety Mike Salerno heads the secondary after finishing tied for 13th in the NESCAC in interceptions (2) and 26th in tackles (6.4/gm.). Juniors Rob Grammer and Chris Mottau will hold down the starting safety and cornerback positions as Grammer finished first on the team and tied for sixth in the conference with eight pass break-ups and Mottau was sixth on the team with 42 tackles. Filling in the final spot in the defensive backfield will be sophomore A.J. Scola, who showed flashes of impressive play last season in a reserve role and on special teams. Battling for time in the rest of the secondary will be sophomores Chris Fitzpatrick, Patroba Michieka, Fran Florio, Matt Ghiden, and rookies Chris Govey, Matt Gutierrez, M.J. Fandl and Fred Argir.
Senior quad-captain Brendan McKee leads the defensive front seven after ranking second in the NESCAC in tackles-for-loss (1.38/gm) last season. Classmate Greg Muecke is the Jeffs’ leading returning tackler (54 tackles) and will hold down an inside linebacker spot, while seniors Dakota Jones and Idris McClain, junior Jack Ewen Jr. and sophomore Guy Matisis look to wreak havoc from the outside linebacker positions. Sophomores Patrick Moriarty and Carson Reed and rookie Tim Nelson hope to get in on the action at rock as well.
Junior Jon Attridge and sophomores Greg Smith, M.J. Smith and Mike Meola solidify the defensive line, and will get support from and first-years Kyle Ramsey, Eric Pender, J.N. Gallant, Wyatt Moss and Edwin Urey. Junior Nick Boehm and sophomores Mike Flanagan and Preston Puryear will compete for time alongside Muecke in the middle, and sophomores Michael Goldsticker and Travis Doering and first-year Mike Taylor hope to contribute as well. Rookie Peter Andruszkiwicz suffered a season-ending knee surgery this summer, but the coaches look for good things from him in the future.
The Jeffs will play another challenging eight-game slate this fall, including a season-opener against visiting Bates College on Sept. 23, a family weekend tilt against Tufts University on Oct. 28, and a highly anticipated Homecoming bout with NESCAC and Little Three archrival Williams on Nov. 11 in the 121st meeting of the “Biggest Little Game in America", which will air live on the New England Sports Network (NESN).
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