Amherst College football team kicks off season Saturday
Amherst College quarterback Max Lippe passes during practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Amherst College defensive lineman Rob Wasielewski stretches during practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Amherst College Assistant Coach Don Faulstick talks with Jake O'Malley during practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Amherst College linebacker Danny Chun runs a drill during practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Amherst College Assistant Coach Don Faulstick talks to Max Lippe during practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Jake O'Malley practices Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Jake O'Malley, right, grabs a pass while defended by Landrus Lewis during an Amherst College practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Landrus Lewis, left, goes for the ball while defending Jake O'Malley during Amherst College practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Landrus Lewis, left, defends Jake O'Malley during Amherst College practice Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Landrus Lewis, of Amherst College, practices Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
Danny Chun, of Amherst College, practices Sept. 17 at Pratt Field.
AMHERST — Following a long preseason, the Amherst College football team is ready to open the season Saturday.
“I think we will be better,” quarterback Max Lippe said. “The offense is still experienced, and though we lost a few key guys on defense, we have really come together as a group and look good out in practice.”
Last season, the defense allowed the fewest yards rushing per game (110.6) and the second fewest points per game (14.9) in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. But the Jeffs had to replace the entire defensive line.
“We have a talented defense,” outside linebacker and team captain Danny Chun said. “Though we did lose a couple talented guys, our younger players have learned a lot in the past few weeks, and are looking ready. I think that we are just as good as last year.”
With several returning veterans, the offense should be a strength for Amherst.
Senior captain and two-time first-team all-conference offensive lineman Rob Wasielewski returns to lead a unit that averaged 191 yards rushing per game. The line has also allowed the fewest sacks in the league in four out of the past five seasons.
“It (the offensive line) has been a strength the past few years,” Wasielewski said. “I have been out for two weeks but our line’s improvement over that period has been great, and I’m looking forward to getting caught up and back on the field with the guys.”
“The whole team in general has improved as well,” he added. “We are a completely different team from last year, but I see us doing well, if not better this year.”
Lippe is back under center after leading the Lord Jeffs to a 6-2 record in his first season as starter. He completed 59.9 percent of his passes and averaged 131.6 yards per game with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Amherst’s receiving corps will be led by senior Jake O’Malley, a first-team all-conference player last season.
Running back Tyler Jacobs is returning from an injury and will look to carry the load for a unit that lost its top two rushers to graduation. Jacobs, who played in only six games last season, rushed for 227 yards.
E.J. Mills enters his 17th season at the helm for the Lord Jeffs, who have gone 28-4 with two undefeated seasons over the last four seasons.
“We’ve worked really hard in training camp and during practice,” Mills said. “It’s hard to tell just how good we are going to be headed into the season, but we have really worked and feel we are ready for this Saturday.”
Amherst opens the season at Hamilton at 1 p.m.
“We are going to focus on the moment,” Mills said. “We can’t peek at certain games or you can get into trouble. Right now we are focused solely on practice and on Saturday’s game with Hamilton.”
The Jeffs, meanwhile, are looking forward to certain games.
“We are excited about all the games, but we are really excited about Middlebury and Trinity,” Chun said. “Those were our two losses last year, and we could have played better on the defensive side. We also are excited of course, about playing Williams, our archrival.”
The Lord Jeffs lost to Middlebury 24-3 and to eventual conference champion Trinity 32-20. This season, Amherst hosts both teams at newly renovated Pratt Field. The Jeffs play Middlebury Oct. 5 and Trinity on Nov. 2. The team will close out its season on the road against Williams College on Nov. 9.
The Lord Jeffs’ home opener is Sept. 28 against Bowdoin at 1.