The Jumbos salute their seniors Saturday as they play their final home game of the 2018 season at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field against the Colby College Mules.
|Jack Rhodes and the rest of the senior class will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday|
Tufts (5-2), who secured their fourth consecutive winning season with a 28-21 victory here against Williams two weeks ago, had a close 19-13 loss at Amherst College last week. Colby (2-5) has been the most improved team in the conference over the course of the season as they enter Saturday's game on the strength of back-to-back victories.
Few classes in Tufts football history have been as successful as the 2018-19 Jumbo seniors. They enter this afternoon's game with a record of 23-9 during their four years. With two games remaining, they have an opportunity to match the most wins ever by a Jumbo football class in the modern era. The 1979-82 Jumbos won 25 games by posting records of 8-0, 6-2, 5-2-1 and 6-2.
The senior players who will be honored in a pre-game ceremony Saturday are Jared Ahsler, McCoy Berger, Caden Bevilacqua, Dom Borelli, Spenser Clouse, Dan de Leon, Thomas Dell'Erario, Dan Dewing, Jack Dolan, Jack Duffy, Ryan Hagfeldt, Alexander LaPiana, Pierce Lukas, Dan MacDonald, Ryan McDonald, Trey Nelson, Nmesoma Nwafor, Tim Preston, Tim Reitzenstein, Jack Rhodes, Frank Roche, Nick Roy and Josh Thibeault. The team will also honor senior student assistant coaches and managers Miles Harleston, Markus Edmunds and Luke Martin.
One of the largest senior classes at 26 members, these Jumbos have been a part of Tufts teams that posted 6-2, 7-1 and 5-4 records during the last three years. They are the leaders of this fall's 5-2 team that has helped Tufts earn its fourth consecutive winning season for the first time since 1988-91.
The Jumbos were in it until the end at unbeaten Amherst last weekend. They staged a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive to pull within 19-13 on a two-yard Borelli touchdown run at 9:12 of the fourth quarter. They converted two third downs during the drive, and a 22-yard pass from McDonald to sophomore wide receiver OJ Armstrong brought the Jumbos to the 2-yard line before the touchdown.
The Tufts defense was equal to the task. They forced punts on Amherst's next two possessions, giving the Jumbos two more opportunities to score. However, the Mammoths kept Tufts out of the end zone and sealed the victory with a late interception.
The Jumbo defense played well against an Amherst squad that was averaging 28.2 points and 409.5 yards per game entering the day. The Mammoths were just four for 15 on third down (27 percent) and gained 281 total yards. Their 131 rushing yards was well below their 234.7-yard average entering the game. Sophomore Jack Walton led the Jumbos with 12 tackles. Junior linebacker Greg Holt – who had received the prestigious New England Football Writers' Association Gold Helmet Award as Division II-III Player of the Week for his performance in the Williams game – finished with eight tackles. He's currently third in the league with 60. Junior Kevin Quisumbing had two tackles for losses including a sack at Amherst.
Tufts gained 116 yards on the ground, the most this season against Amherst's league-leading rush defense. McDonald had a 25-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that had pulled Tufts within 10-6 at the time. Sophomore Mike Pedrini ran eight times for 65 yards, an average of 8.1 yards per carry.
McDonald became Tufts' all-time total offense leader during last week's game with 5,445 yards. In 24 career games, he's passed for 3,692 yards and rushed for 1,753. He replaced Dan Morse in the Jumbo record book, who totaled 5,379 yards from 1995-98. The rushing touchdown by McDonald at Amherst was his seventh of the season – third in the league - and 16th all-time. Hobbled by an ankle injury in recent weeks, he's shown tremendous leadership in these final games of a stand-out career.
Colby first-year head coach Jack Cosgrove is the all-time winningest coach at the University of Maine, where he worked 23 years with the Black Bears. He brings the Mules into town with some momentum. A one-win team last season, Colby has posted victories over Hamilton (23-21) and Bates (21-6) in the last two weeks. In the Hamilton game, they trailed 21-17 entering the fourth quarter and got two field goals from sophomore kicker Walter Thilly, including a 34-yard game-winner with 13 seconds remaining. Last Saturday, senior back Jake Schwern rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns against the Bobcats. He won NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Colby has a good 1-2 punch on offense with Schwern and freshman QB Matt Hersch. After last week's explosion, Schwern is averaging 102.7 yards per game rushing and has a total of 719 yards. Hersch leads the conference with a 61.3 completion percentage (119-194). The Mules have six players with 12 or more receptions, led by Andrew DeFranco's 18 for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Colby is led by sophomore linebacker Marcus Bullard's 34 tackles. Freshman DL Nick Wilcox has two sacks and has recovered two fumbles, including one he returned 51 yards against Trinity. Junior CJ Hassan has an interception and five pass break-ups for the Mules.
The Jumbos have won four straight in their series against Colby, including 28-14 in Waterville, Maine last fall. Pedrini rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Tufts had five take-aways in the game, including Tim Preston's second pick-six of his career. Colby's DeFranco had eight receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Tufts, currently third in NESCAC behind Amherst and Trinity, finishes its season with a trip to Middlebury, Vermont next weekend. After its win over Bates last week, Colby can capture its rivalry CBB title with a victory against Bowdoin in their finale next Saturday.
TUFTS VS. COLBY SERIES
Series Record: 44-23-1 Tufts
First Game: 1909, Colby 10-0
Last Tufts Win: 2017, 28-14
Last Colby Win: 2013, 37-0
Current Streak: Tufts 4 games
Large Margins: Tufts 41-0 in 1985; Colby 45-7 in 1994