BRUNSWICK, ME -- Eph junior WR Darren Hartwell -- inserted on defense on the last play of the game -- intercepted Bowdoin's final pass attempt in the end zone to preserve the Eph's 24-21 victory. Hartwell's interception marked the close of what was undoubtedly a hair-rising final half, with Bowdoin hacking away at a 10-point Williams' halftime lead (24-14), while holding the Ephs scoreless over the final two quarters.
With Williams looking for a game-clinching score in the final period, quarterback Chris Cleary threw a bubble-screen pass to Hartwell. Hartwell, reaching for the goal line, was tackled and fumbled the ball into and out of the end zone, resulting in Bowdoin gaining possession at the 20 on a touchback. From there, Bowdoin mounted a determined drive, with their star running back, Zach Donnarumma rushing for eighteen yards to the Bowdoin 47 with only two minutes left on the clock. After Williams failed to pick up a first down, Bowdoin took the reigns once more with a drive starting at their 13-yard line with 00:38 remaining.
After two incomplete passes by quarterback Grant White, Bowdoin needed 75 more yards with only 22 seconds remaining. White then rocketed a 45-yard pass to junior wide receiver Nick Goldin who made a diving catch near the sideline, rejuvenating Bowdoin's hope for a win in the final 12 seconds. But, after a holding call moved the Bowdoin offense back to the 40-yard line, the Polar Bears only had time for one final play: a long pass to the end-zone. White's long pass sailed into the end zone and the hands of Darren Hartwell.
Despite inclement weather, the Ephs were able to start the game off strong with touchdowns off their first two possessions, bringing the score to 13-0 at the close of the first quarter.
On a third down scramble Eph QB Chris Cleary completed a 42 yard pass to Greg Payton, bringing the Ephs eight yards away from the end zone. Kristian Lapointe and Tom Wohlwender rushed for three yards each before Bowdoin took their first time-out with 11:16 remaining in the first period. Wohlwender put the Ephs on the scoreboard rushing the final two yards. The Ephs' second TD was setup with sophomore running back Marco Hernandez breaking a 58-yard run to the Bowdoin 3-yard line. Wohlwender finished off the drive with 6:05 remaining by running in from the three. Luke Faust's failed kick attempt, made the score to 13-0.
Bowdoin retaliated early in the second quarter, with a 41 yard TD run by Donnurumma only thirty seconds in. And, after a successful kick attempt by Bowdoin kicker Jimmy Garvey, Bowdoin trailed Williams 13-7.
The following Williams drive was pock-marked with penalties and a failed field goal attempt returning possession to Bowdoin with 9:26 left in the first half. The Bowdoin offense, unable to get past the dynamic Williams defense, was held to -3 yards and forced to return the ball to the Ephs with 6:24 on the clock. Sophomore running back, Kristin Lapointe, rushed for 25 yards before Cleary was able to gain another 10, depositing the offense at the Bowdoin 28-yard line. Cleary then completed a 12 yard pass to Hartwell. Wohlwender forged through the final 7 yards into the end-zone for his second touchdown of the day. Cleary's two point conversion pass to sophomore Greg Payton is successful, and the Ephs led 21-7 five minutes left before halftime.
However, the Bowdoin offense flared up again, led by a series of completed passes by White. On Bowdoin's second down, Williams senior captain Dylan Schultz charged in for a huge sack, moving Bowdoin back 10 yards. White regained composure connected a 54 yard pass to Goldin, bringing the Polar Bears to the Williams one. After a false start, Donnurumma scored on a run from the six. Garvey's PAT was successful and brought Bowdoin to within seven, 21-14.
Williams responded with a drive of its own, ending in an 30 yard field goal by sophomore kicker Joe Mallock, a feat that Coach Kelton later described as, "a real game-changer." The final seconds on the clock wound down and the Ephs walked off the field at halftime leading 24-14. "Joe made that field goal when we needed him to and it really changed the whole game for us," said Kelton.
The second half opened with the Polar Bears determined to lessen the gap. Neither team had a successful drive for the first twelve minutes of the third period until the Bowdoin offense was able to score its third touchdown with 1:05 left on the clock. After a completed 14 yard pass from White to Goldin for the touchdown and another successful kick for Garvey, Bowdoin trailed Williams by a mere three points.
The Eph offense struggled in the second half and was held scoreless. "Bowdoin put a little pressure on us and we had too many penalties and took ourselves out of good situations," noted Kelton. "We didn't come off the football as well as I would have liked us too. Overall, we ran the ball well, but not so much in the second half, which is something we'll have to work on."
The fourth quarter began with a huge sack on Eph quarterback Chris Cleary, a sign of the hard-fought battle that ensued for the final fifteen minutes. Though Bowdoin's offense tried everything, Dylan Schultz, Colin Curzi and Nikola Mirkovic were relentless and did not allow the Polar Bears many offensive gains. Though Williams had a few close calls, the Ephs hung on to win 24-21.
Eph head coach Aaron Kelton complimented senior QB Chris Cleary on his first varsity start, " I thought Chris did a great job managing the game and making sure that he didn't turn the ball over, especially early. I just told him I was happy with that. In terms of it being his first start, he did some really great things out on the football field. I am really proud of what he did out there today."
"We used our bench well and all those guys -- Marco Hernandez, Kristian Lapointe and Greg Payton did a great job; being ready to go when we needed them," Kelton pointed out. "Tommy Wohlwender did a great job as well. When Alex Scyocurka got hurt we were down and those guys were ready to go."
Commenting on the final play of the game Kelton said, "Darren [Hartwell] is just an athletic guy and able to help us defend against deep passes We're really working at trying to bat the ball down and make a play, but because it was right there he just caught it."
Williams had 394 yards in total offense, while Bowdoin generated 376. In his debut, Cleary was 11 for 20 passing for 175 yards. Bowdoin's Grant White connected on 19 of 34 passes for 247 yards and was picked off once. Tom Wohlwender had 11 carries for 50 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Donnamurra was the game's leading ground-gainer with 19 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns. The Eph defense was lead by senior Dan O'Mara who had ten tackles (9 solos). Senior linebackers, Dylan Schultz and Noah Goldberg, both contributed eight. Bowdoin's top tackler was Griffin Cardew, who had 10 tackles.
Next up for the Ephs is a road game next Saturday at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Kick off is scheduled for 1:00 pm.