Long wait almost over for return of Amherst College football

  • The Amherst College football team, seen here in 2018, returns to the field Saturday for the first time since 2019 with a game on the road at Bates College. Geoffrey Bolte/Clarus Studios Inc.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2021 9:29:58 PM

Not even E.J. Mills knows quite what the Amherst College football team will look like when it finally takes the field Saturday at Bates.

The Mammoths haven’t played since a 31-9 loss to Williams ended the 2019 season. That’s 679 days between contests. Amherst College — and the rest of the NESCAC — opted out of fall and winter athletics in 2020.

The team only had its freshman class and a small group of others on campus last year. They couldn’t hit and were limited to individual workouts or technique work.

“It was clearly disappointing for everyone not to get to play last year,” Mills said. “I think we’ve had a productive preseason. We haven’t played a game in a long time. We’ll find out in a hurry (Saturday).”

Whatever happens, the Mammoths will have plenty of veteran leadership. There are 15 players on the roster that took advantage of the extra season of eligibility the NCAA granted everyone.

“We had a lot of guys who were committed to coming back and playing their last year of football,” Mills said. “Hats off to those guys that made that commitment to each other and the program.”

Because Amherst College is an undergraduate institution, getting that extra season meant taking a semester off to make sure the academic side lined up. That didn’t just benefit seniors. Amherst Regional graduate Jack Nagy took last spring off so this season he is a freshman again for eligibility purposes.

During the spring he served as an assistant coach with the Hurricanes.

“It was great to just be around the game last year and be with coach (Chris) Ehorn, who I look up to a lot,” Nagy said. “It helped me translate some of my technique, think about it a little more deeply.”

Nagy used last fall to learn the Mammoths’ offense better, hone his technique and train his body.

“Essentially it was like a redshirt year, which you don’t really get the opportunity to do in D-III,” he said.

Nagy doesn’t  expect to play a ton in 2021. He knows there are a bevy of experienced upperclassmen in front of him. That won’t alter his preparation.

“It will be a lot more learning for me still,” Nagy said. “Injuries can always happen, so I have to be ready if it comes to me. And I will be.”

Jacob Ayyub is one of those senior linemen and one of the Mammoths’ four captains. The other three are on the defensive side of the ball: linebacker Joe Kelly, defensive back Matt Durborow and three-year secondary starter Ricky Goodson.

“We’ve always hung our hat on being a great defensive team and doing a great job in special teams, but you’ve got to score points to win,” Mills said. “We feel like we’ve got a great shot to be a balanced team.”

The trigger man of that point-scoring unit is still to be determined. Mills said junior Chad Peterson will start, but sophomores Brad Breckenridge and Mike Piazza may get a look.

“Decision-making is obviously critical,” Mills said. “When it’s all going, some guys are going to be able to step up and make plays, some guys it may not happen.”

Whatever happens, Mills can’t wait for it. It’s a long time coming.

“Everybody anticipates good things going into a season, we’re going to have to go out and prove that,” he said. “I’m excited to see what this team can do.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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