WATERVILLE — Earlier this week, Colby College quarterback Matt Hersch predicted that Williams College — the defending New England Small College Athletic Conference champion — should be ready for a dog fight with the Mules in the season opener.

Not only did Hersch’s prediction come true, but by the end of Saturday afternoon, he and his teammates were ringing the victory bell at Harold Alfond Stadium. Colby pulled off the upset, beating Williams 24-14. It’s the first win Colby has had over Williams since 2016, and the first loss the Ephs have experienced since 2019.

“It’s awesome,” Hersch said. “A lot of us have been here for a long time and have just seen the growth of this program. It’s really cool to see. A couple of years ago, we kept it close (with Williams). Last year obviously didn’t go as we wanted. But you learn from it, you build off of it and you’re motivated by it.”

“A year ago, (Williams) beat us 42-0,” Colby head coach Jack Cosgrove said, emotional after the victory. “It was a down point for us. I’m so proud. To get out ahead of the defending league champ and let them come back. We expected they would, there’s a lot of fight and that’s a good program. But for us to go into the fourth quarter and assert ourselves, I thought all three phases contributed to the win. There’s some mistakes we made and things like that. But man-on-man, when it came time to win a football game, we did the things we needed to do.”

Hersch, a senior, was 14 of 22 passing for 177 yards, while adding 46 rushing yards. He was responsible for all three touchdowns for the Mules (1-0), with one on the ground and two through the air.

Sophomore running back Keon Smart had 129 yards rushing on 21 carries for the Mules, with most of those yards coming in the first quarter.


Colby was nearly flawless in the first quarter. On the second possession, the Mules marched 74 yards on three plays — led by a 52-yard run by Smart — and finished on a 19-yard pass from Herch to Isaac Anderson for a touchdown. Lowell Carr’s extra point gave Colby a 7-0 lead.

“The defense did a great job in getting us the ball quick and Keon did a great job running the ball and our line did a great job blocking for him,” Hersch said. “It’s easy to throw and catch when you’ve got that stuff going, you’ve got a great team.”

Colby’s Marc Dougherty (9) defends Williams’ Dan Vaughn (19) in the second half during a college football game Saturday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Mules would score again on their next possession, going 36 yards on 10 plays, capped off by a 5-yard scoring strike from Hersch to Brendan Sawyer. After Carr’s extra point, the Colby lead jumped to 14-0.

But Williams (0-1) would not go away quietly, scoring on two of its next three possessions, capped by rushing touchdowns from quarterback Jack Dickinson, to tie the game 14-14 at halftime.

Instead of being rattled, Colby marched 72 yards on eight plays on its first offensive possession of the second half. Hersch scored on a 2-yard run, lifting the Mules to a 21-14 lead. A 26-yard field goal from Carr lengthened the lead to 24-14 early in the fourth quarter.

Colby’s defense was equally impressive, holding the Ephs to 264 total offensive yards. The Mules were also able to force two interceptions — one from Will Nipon, the other from Joshua East — out of Dickinson, a junior. Nipon’s interception came with 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sealing the victory for the Mules.


“We knew we had a rookie quarterback coming in (for Williams),” Nipon said. “We thought, ‘Put the ball in his hands, try to see if he’ll make a play.’ It worked out (for us).”

Dickinson was 15 of 26 passing for 110 yards for the Ephs, while running back Joel Nicholas had 56 rushing yards on 18 carries.

Cosgrove was especially happy for his senior class after the win.

Colby’s Keon Smart (33) runs through Williams’ Christian Cuttita (29) during a college football game Saturday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It’s my first group,” said Cosgrove, who is in his fifth year leading the Mules. “It’s the first group we recruited. (The win) is special, it’s really special, because they’ve had such a huge influence on the growth and development of the program, creating the culture that we have to have. I’m just so happy for them.”

Hersch said the Mules may have been the perceived underdogs, but Colby had high expectation entering the game.

“In the locker room, all around the program, we weren’t seen as the underdog at all. Our captain, (senior linebacker) Marc Dougherty, gave a great speech last night. He said, ‘You don’t hope to win, you don’t work to hope to win. You work to expect to win.'”

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