Football Season Preview: Mammoths Geared Up for New Nine Game Schedule

Football Season Preview: Mammoths Geared Up for New Nine Game Schedule

The 2016 season saw Amherst College football team suffer their first loss in 21 contests, as they finished the fall with a 4-4 overall ledger while placing seven on the All-NESCAC teams.

The Mammoths opened the campaign strong, posting back-to-back wins as they cruised past Hamilton 34-0 in their season opener behind a balanced offensive effort that saw Amherst find the end zone in all four quarters. Matching up against Bowdoin in week two, Amherst put up 14 points in the first quarter en route to downing the Polar Bears at Whittier Field, 31-10. The Mammoths suffered their first set back in more than two seasons in week three, with a Middlebury field goal at the start of the fourth quarter proving to be the difference maker in the as the Panthers held off Amherst for the 27-26 victory.

Bouncing back at home against Colby, the Mammoths improved their record to 3-1 with a 41-0 rout of the visiting Mules as they racked up five touchdowns and two field goals in the contest. Amherst was once again derailed the following week, with Little III rival Wesleyan shutting out the Mammoths 20-0, before Tufts and Trinity battled past Amherst in consecutive weeks to post 27-10 and 24-14 wins, respectively.

Amherst closed out the 2016 season on a high note, with the Mammoths powering to a 21-point third quarter to clinch a season-ending 28-3 victory over archrival Williams on historic Pratt Field at Lehrman Stadium.

Under the guidance of 14th-year assistant coach Matt Ballard, who enters his fourth season as Amherst's offensive coordinator, the Mammoths are focused on improving the overall productivity of this year's offense.

Amherst boasted a balanced attack in 2016, with the Mammoths ranking fifth in the league with 332.8 yards per game, including 104.8 yards per game on the ground and 228.0 yards per game through the air. Amherst also registered solid numbers in conversion attempts, finishing fourth in the NESCAC in third-down conversions (37%) and second in the conference in four-down conversion attempts (50%). The Mammoths will also look to build on their noteworthy 83% success rate in red zone opportunities that ranked second in the NESCAC last season.

Offensive Line
The offensive line returns an experienced unit that boasts depth and talent, including 2016 First-Team Offense selection Elijah Zabludoff '18. Fellow seniors Kevin Sheehan and Mitch Arthur are primed to be key contributors in the offense, while Dan Papa '20 looks to put together a breakout sophomore season.

The Mammoths return Reece Foy '18 to the lineup after the senior missed all of last season due to injury, with the Honolulu, Hawaii native last seeing action during Amherst's 8-0 season in 2015. Nick Morales '19 is also positioned to be in the QB mix alongside three newcomers, with Morales appearing in seven contests for Amherst in 2016.

Running Backs
Despite the loss of Nick Kelly '17 to graduation, Amherst returns two top rushers from a season ago, with Jack Hickey '20 and Hasani Figueroa '18 set to make waves for the Mammoths in the run game.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
The Amherst receiving corps will have the task of replacing their two reception leaders from 2016. Bo Berluti '20 is set to lead the pack of returners for the Mammoths, with the junior ranking third on the team with 35 receptions and second on the squad in yards with 498 during a stellar sophomore campaign.

James O'Regan '20, Will Kelsch '19 and Beau Santero '18 bolster the passing game for Amherst.  

Now entering his 13th season on the sidelines, and ninth as defensive coordinator, Luke Bussard's defense will once again look to shine in 2017.

Amherst held its opponents to 13.9 points per game to finish third in the league in scoring defense, allowing just 79.0 yards on the ground racking up 26 sacks on the year.

Defensive Line
A talented defensive line is anchored by 2016 Second-Team Defense selection Andrew Yamin '19, who finished with 66 tackles and ranked fifth in the NESCAC in sacks with five a year ago.

Amherst returns an experienced linebacker unit, with Andrew Sommer '19, Jack Barrett '19 and John Callahan '19 all seeing action in six or more games a season ago. Sommer finished 2016 with 29 tackles, including five for a loss of yardage, while Callahan averaged 4.4 tackles per game and broke up two passes for the Mammoths.

John Rak '19, Nate Tyrell '19, Zach Allen '19 and Avery Saffold '20 are positioned to lead the Amherst secondary, with Rack leading the veterans with 25 tackles last season. In addition to Allen's 24 tackles on the year, the junior proved to be a play maker in the back field, recording two interceptions and a pass breakup last season.

Entering his 10th season with the program, special teams coordinator Eddy Augustin will look to continue the success of the Mammoths kicking personnel, with Rak finishing 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, with a 52-yard long, and 13-for-14 on extra points for Amherst a season ago.

Amherst kicks off its 2017 season Saturday, Sept. 16 when it hosts Bates College at Pratt Field at Lehrman Stadium. The Mammoths last met the Bobcats in the 2015 season opener with Amherst claiming a 37-14 victory en route to an 8-0 record that year. Amherst then travels to Hamilton on Sept. 23 for a 1 p.m. bout, before wrapping up the month by playing host to Bowdoin on Sept. 30.

The month of October sees the Mammoths trade off home and away games, with Amherst set to battle Middlebury at Pratt Field at Lehrman Stadium on Oct. 7, before taking to the road to take on Colby on Oct. 14. Amherst then hosts Little III rival Wesleyan on Homecoming on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. before visiting Tufts on Oct. 28.

Amherst's final home game of the year comes on Nov. 4, with the Mammoths set to play Trinity on Family Weekend beginning at 1 p.m. before finishing off the year on the road with a highly anticipated tilt with archrival Williams on Nov. 11.

Not yet a member of the Friends of Amherst Football for the 2017-18 year? Become a first-time member of or renew your membership in the FAA and support Coach Mills and the football program. Make a gift ahead of the team's first home game on Saturday, September 16 against Bates at Pratt Field at Lehrman Stadium. Go Mammoths!