The 2022 football season could not have started off on a better foot for the Mules as they secured a 24-14 victory over last year’s NESCAC Champions, the Williams Ephs. The atmosphere was electric right off the bat at Saturday’s matchup, as friends, families, and members of the College’s community flocked the Harold Alfond Stadium for the highly anticipated season opener.
Colby’s offense was immediately given the chance to flex its muscles after Williams deferred to receive the ball in the second half. A combination of passing plays and run plays contributed to the Mules’ first drive, most notably a huge run by Keon Smart `25 into Williams’ territory. The Ephs showed their grit and determination on the defensive end as they held the Mules to a fourth and short. Colby decided to leave their offense on the field to try to convert the first down, but once again, the Ephs defense held them up.
A massive display from Colby’s defensive unit quickly forced the Ephs offense off the field and set up another drive for the Mules. Another huge run by Smart set up a golden opportunity for the Mules to strike first, as he drove the ball 52 yards down the field to the Ephs 19-yard line. Immediately following Smart’s run, quarterback Matt Hersch `23 completed a 19-yard pass to Isaac Anderson `24 for the first score of the game. Kicker Lowell Carr `23 entered and smashed the ball through the uprights, giving the Mules a 7-0 lead with eight minutes and seventeen seconds remaining in the first period.
After a brilliant kick that pinned the Williams offense at their own one-yard line, the Mules defense forced a three and out from the Ephs offense and took over at the Williams 36-yard line. Despite solid defense from the Ephs, Colby’s relentless offense was able to convert a fourth and short as they got into the endzone again – this time caught by wide receiver Brendan Sawyer `25. Carr nailed the extra point again, giving the Mules a 14-0 lead to take into the second quarter.
The red-hot start from the Mules offense was met by a roar of excitement from the crowd. Senior defensive back Will Nipon `23 discussed the role the atmosphere played at Saturday afternoon’s game:
“The atmosphere at Alfond Stadium was amazing, and it definitely played a large role. Every time we made a big play, I would hear the crowd, and I think it fueled us to go even harder the next play,” he said.
Despite Colby’s impressive start on both ends of the ball, Williams’ offense turned it up to start the second period as they got into the Colby endzone following a run by quarterback Jack Dickinson. Things would quickly worsen for the Mules as they fumbled a punt, setting the Ephs’ offense up near the 10-yard line. Dickinson, a massive threat to the Mules’ defense when running with the ball all afternoon, scrambled into the endzone again. The Ephs’ kicker hit the extra point, squaring the two teams up at 14 a piece, concluding an exhilarating first half.
After conceding 14 unanswered points, Colby came out firing on both the offensive and defensive ends to start the second half. The Mules defense immediately collapsed on the Ephs, forcing an early punt and putting the ball back into the hands of quarterback Hersch. Hersch led the Mules offense down the field and ran the ball into the endzone from two yards out. The extra point was perfectly knocked through the uprights again by Carr, giving the Mules a 21-14 lead with eight minutes and fifty seconds left in the third.
The Mules defense came up huge in the final stretch of this matchup. With six minutes and three seconds left in the third quarter, Joshua East `25 made a massive play, intercepting the pass by Williams at midfield and setting up the Mules offense once again. The Colby defense remained disciplined and refused to give an inch, continually preventing the Ephs offense from getting the necessary conversions.
The Mules continued to remain sturdy into the final quarter, protecting the ball and running down the clock. Carr hit a clutch 26-yard field goal to make it a two-score game at 24-14 Mules. Following the Mules’ points, the defense saw the game out; Nipon extinguished any hope of a comeback by intercepting Dickinson’s pass with roughly a minute left, capping off an incredible start to the season for the Mules and avenging a crushing 42-0 defeat to Williams the year before. Senior defensive back Javon Williams `23 spoke on the memory of last year’s defeat:
“We had the score of last year’s game up on the scoreboard at every practice; we used Jay-Z’s line: ‘Allow us to re-introduce ourselves’ as inspiration to put the NESCAC on notice. We wanted everyone to know this isn’t the same Colby team as years past and that we are on a mission this year. Having that loss last year definitely added fuel to the fire,” he said.
Notable performances by Smart, Hersch, and Carr on the offensive end greatly enabled the Mules to enjoy the success they did this past Saturday. Smart ran for a total of 129 yards on the ground, Hersch completed 14 of his 23 pass attempts, and Carr nailed a couple extra points and a field goal as well as pinning the Ephs deep into their own half on several occasions.
Colby will be back in action next Saturday when they face Trinity in Hartford, CT, and the Mules will be on home turf again on October 1 when they take on the Bates Bobcats at 7 p.m..
Williams said he is optimistic that the team can win against any opponent in the NESCAC.
“We truly believe we can beat anybody. We believe that we have the guys on the team now to shake up this conference and put Colby at the forefront of discussions when it comes to NESCAC football … The goal is to [win] every week, and if we keep that mindset, I know we’ll have a great year,” he said.
—Mason Groves ’23