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Amherst College defense shuts down Middlebury in 37-16 win

AMHERST — It was a year ago Monday, the Amherst College football team received a humbling loss courtesy of Middlebury College.

That game featured a pair of 2-0 teams battling for NESCAC supremacy. But the Panthers stampeded the Lord Jeffs by three touchdowns for the win.

On Saturday, Amherst got the redemption it waited a year for. The Lord Jeffs steam rolled the Panthers, 37-16, in the team’s second game at the newly renovated Pratt Field.

“We definitely had this one circled on the calendar,” said senior defensive back and captain Landrus Lewis.

Amherst quarterback Max Lippe finished the game 21 for 35 with 213 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

“Max is getting better every week,” 17-year coach E.J. Mills said. “Offensively we’re trying to find our way, you want to be balanced running it and throwing it. Max is doing a great job managing our team and made some big plays.”

Lippe benefitted from a spectacular defensive performance by the Lord Jeffs. Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote threw for over 400 yards but was intercepted five times. Lewis recorded two of those interceptions.

“It starts up front, it’s not just the back end,” Mills said. “Coverage is an 11 person effort.”

Middlebury began the game with a 17-play, 69-yard drive that lasted four minutes and resulted in a 28-yard field goal by Michael Dola.

After an Amherst (3-0, 3-0 NESCAC) turnover, the Panthers (2-1, 2-1) marched inside the 5-yard line. The Amherst defense resisted once again as defensive back Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn blocked a 20-yard field goal attempt.

“The blocked kick early, when you think about it was a huge, huge play,” Mills said.

Amherst took advantage of the turnover with a 15-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Lippe to wide receiver Jake O’Malley at the 2:10 mark of the first quarter.

On Middlebury’s next possession, Foote threw his first interception. Lewis snagged the pick and returned it 50 yards to the Panthers’ 5-yard line.

Lippe punched it in on the next play with a 5-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter to extend his team’s lead to 13-3.

In the second quarter, the Lord Jeffs capitalized on Foote’s second interception — and Lewis’ second pick. Amherst took over at the Middlebury 37-yard line and Lippe found O’Malley for an 19-yard touchdown strike and a 20-3 lead with 5:48 left.

Foote threw his third interception on the next possession, on an ill-advised, off-balance throw that resulted in an easy takeaway for Max Dietz, his third interception of the season.

After gaining 69 yards on 17 plays during the first drive of the game, Amherst shut down the Foote-led Panthers offense. Their next seven drives resulted in 107 yards, three interceptions and one turnover on downs.

A 46-yard field goal by Phillip Nwosu gave Amherst a 23-3 lead with 7:59 left in the third.

But Middlebury answered as Foote and wide receiver Matthew Minno linked up for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 23-10.

The Amherst defense stepped up again on the Panthers’ next drive, as defensive back Christopher Gow intercepted Foote. The Lord Jeffs turned the pick into seven points as Kenny Adinkra capped off a six-play, 60-yard drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown.

Amherst cornerback Jaymie Spears eliminated any hope of a comeback on the next drive, when Foote was again intercepted on a pass deflected by his own receiver. Spears returned the pick 74 yards for a touchdown.

Foote was 54 for 84 for 459 yards and two touchdowns. He tied Evan Jones, of Carthage College, and Mackenzie McGrady, of Alma College for the Division III record for passes attempted in a game.

Foote, a Newton native, is the grandson of University of Massachusetts football hall of famer Bob Foote, and the son of former Amherst College player Robert. His mom, Jane, ran track and cross country at Amherst.

“It would have been a lot nicer if we would have won,” Foote said. “A lot of my family went here, it would have been nice. They were rooting for me to beat them.”

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