Football Edged by Amherst 19-13 in Tussle Between Top NESCAC Teams

AMHERST – Undefeated Amherst College held off Tufts University for a 19-13 NESCAC football victory played in windy and rainy conditions at Pratt Field Saturday afternoon.

Jack Walton led Tufts' defense with 12 stops

The Mammoths (7-0) had a 19-6 advantage with 13 minutes remaining before Tufts (5-2) scored on a two-yard run by senior Dom Borelli at 9:12 of the fourth to close within 19-13. The Jumbos had two more cracks at it, but could not score. Amherst senior Zach Allen sealed the win with a late interception.

Following a Jumbo punt, Amherst scored on their first possession of the game. They converted an early third and five with a 16-yard completion from Ollie Eberth to James O'Regan. James Hickey had a 10-yard run into the red zone. The Jumbo defense forced a fourth and five at the 6, but Amherst faked a field goal and Bo Berluti took it in for a touchdown.

The Mammoths held Tufts to a three-and-out again on their second possession. After driving to the Jumbo 35, they went for it on fourth and three and Tufts senior Alex LaPiana broke up a pass to turn the ball over on downs.

Amherst's defense continued to set the tone as John Callahan intercepted a Ryan McDonald pass on Tufts' next drive. His six-yard return gave the Mammoths the ball at the Jumbo 46. The Tufts D held the hosts to a 39-yard Andrew Ferrero field goal making it 10-0 Amherst early in the second quarter.

Tufts had its biggest play of the half on the next possession when McDonald passed for 27 yards to senior Dan de Leon. When Amherst next got the ball, Jumbo junior Kevin Quisumbing sacked Eberth forcing a fumble that the Mammoths recovered. That led to a punt and Tufts' momentum continued as sophomore Mike Pedrini ran for 38 yards on the first play. They soon got on the scoreboard with a 25-yard touchdown run by McDonald. Tufts could not execute the extra point and they trailed 10-6.

Mammoth Joe Masterson returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Amherst 42. The hosts moved to the Jumbo 33 and went for it on fourth and eight, but a pass was incomplete. The game went to half at 10-6 Amherst.

Callahan made another big defensive play that led to Amherst points in the third quarter. After a Tufts completion, he forced and recovered a fumble and returned it 65 yards to the Tufts 2-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Jack Hickey rushed for a TD and Amherst led 16-6 after missing the extra point.

The Mammoths expanded their margin to 19-6 on another Ferrero field goal, this one from 30 yards at 13:32 of the fourth. A 29-yard Eberth to O'Regan pass keyed the scoring drive. Amherst had a first and 10 from the 14 and the Jumbos again did well to keep them to three points. Tufts had tackles for losses on back-to-back plays, by senior Nmesoma Nwafor and a combo by Greg Holt and Conor Chepenik.

Stymied for most of the afternoon, Tufts put together a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to stay in the game. A 22-yard pass from McDonald to sophomore OJ Armstrong went to the 2, and Borelli scored from there to make it 19-13.

Tufts' defense then forced a punt, but an illegal block penalty on the Jumbos started their drive at their own 12. It ended with a punt.

The Tufts D stepped up with a three-and-out on Amherst's next possession, giving the offense another chance with three minutes remaining. However, McDonald was intercepted by Allen with 2:10 remaining. The Mammoths were able to run out the clock to put an end to this one.

The Mammoth defense forced three Jumbo turnovers with Callahan responsible for two along with his five tackles. Andrew Sommer led Amherst with 11 stops including an eight-yard sack. Matt Durborow had three of the host's six pass break-ups.

Hickey rushed for 89 yards on 20 carries with the touchdown for the victors. Eberth completed 14 of 26 passes for 150 yards, including seven times for 80 yards to O'Regan. Amherst had a massive advantage in time of possession at 38:57 to 21:03, and finished with 281 yards.

The Jumbo defense was equal to the task, holding Amherst to four for 15 on third down (27 percent). Jack Walton led the Jumbos with 12 tackles. Two of Quisumbing's six tackles were for losses totaling to 11 yards.

Tufts finished with 253 yards. Pedrini ran eight times for 65 yards, an 8.1 average. McDonald finished 15 for 29 for 127 yards, with four balls each going to Jack Dolan and Pedrini.

Amherst can secure the conference championship with a victory next week against 6-1 Trinity College. The Jumbos wrap up their home schedule with their Senior Day game against Colby.