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Williams at Amherst | Saturday, 4 p.m.

Amherst football eyes perfect finish against Williams

Not only is Chris Tamasi (38) a key cog in Amherst’s NESCAC-leading defense, he was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his dedication and commitment to serving the community.
Not only is Chris Tamasi (38) a key cog in Amherst’s NESCAC-leading defense, he was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his dedication and commitment to serving the community.Photo courtesy of Amherst College/Amherst College

The question is, when does Chris Tamasi squeeze in a little shut-eye? Especially over the past six days with the countdown to another Amherst-Williams tussle, the 129th edition of the Biggest Little Game in America.

His final game as a collegian. Likely his last football game ever.

“I get enough sleep,” emphasized the 21-year-old Amherst senior with a chuckle. “I have this motto, ‘I’m never going to have the opportunity to do this again.’ I have a different motor than most.”

And so he pushes on, unrelenting in his array of meaningful pursuits on and off the field.

He’s a tricaptain of a juggernaut Lord Jeffs program that’s one win away from its second 8-0 campaign in four seasons. An English major with a passion for poetry, he’s writing children’s books as part of his senior thesis. As the founder and point person for the “CAC Giving Back” program, he delivers 100 to 200 pounds of nonperishable food left over from campus events to the Amherst Survival Center every Monday morning. He is the liaison for the football team and six other varsity programs in managing their community engagements. And he is also president of the college’s student advisory athletic committee.

“It is really incredible, how he is able to compartmentalize everything,” lauded Amherst coach E.J. Mills of the Xaverian Brothers graduate, a first team all-NESCAC selection at outside linebacker.

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On a dominant Lord Jeffs defense (yielding a NESCAC-low 8.9 points per game) with no shortage of playmakers, the 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pound Tamasi (12½ tackles for loss, 4½ sacks) is a game-changer off the edge, consistently wreaking havoc in opposing backfields.

“Chris is one of our five strongest players, and one of our five fastest,” said fellow captain and Pond Hall roommate Ned Deane, the unit’s cerebral play-caller at inside linebacker. “He can shred a 280-pound lineman and then chase down a 180-pound back and tackle him for a loss.”

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Tamasi, who grew up in Canton, and Deane, an Andover High product, met the summer before their freshman year as rivals in the annual Shriners’ Classic (Deane and his North teammates prevailed).

They have been tight ever since.

“After we went 8-0 our freshman year, we didn’t plan on losing a game in four years,” recalled Deane, who at 6-1, 215 pounds is a force in the middle, averaging a team-leading 9.3 tackles per game.

But Deane, Tamasi, and the rest of the Amherst seniors now have an opportunity to bookend their careers with another perfect season, and a clean sweep of the Ephs (2-5).

“The seniors have put in the work all four years, to partake in our last game, the first Amherst-Williams game at the new Pratt Field, under the lights, will be very special,” added Deane, an economics and political science major. “This is the last go-around for this group of 75 players.”

In his 18th season as head coach, Mills calls both Deane and Tamasi “really remarkable kids.”

“Very good football players, outstanding leaders for us,” he said. “Ned is the brains of the operation, he gets us in the right calls, setting the [defensive fronts].”

Deane soaked up the playbook from Day 1 as a freshman, according to Tamasi. “He had a firm grasp of the schemes, and it put him in position to get on the field right away,” he said.

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Initially, Tamasi was positioned inside, too, but found a home outside, where he could put his power and speed to work.

“Chris is a pin-your-ears-back type of player,” said Mills. “They play well off each other.”

Tamasi has the same take-charge approach in his other endeavors. In high school, he took pride giving back to the community. At Amherst, he noticed the amount of food being wasted on campus and started “CAC Giving Back.” Nearly $2,300 was raised for the milk fund at the survival center. Through an NCAA sportsmanship grant, the advisory started a T-shirt initiative: “We are the NESCAC” is printed on the front, “Respect the Game” on the back.

Tamasi’s work has not gone unnoticed.

Last month, from an initial list of 182 nominees, Tamasi was one of 22 college football players named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his dedication and commitment to serving the community. On Jan. 1, accompanied by his parents, Susan and Michael, along with Luke Bussard, the Lord Jeffs’ defensive coordinator, he will be honored at halftime of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Watch: Chris Tamasi named to Good Works Team

Honored, and yet humbled, he said, “I received this award because I play football; there are lots of others that are doing great work, too, I hope they are celebrated, too.”

Deane and Tamasi hope to celebrate one more victory on the field.

“There has been a lot of emotion this week,” said Tamasi. “I have been playing the game for 15 years. We know what we have to do. And Williams wants nothing more than to ruin our perfect season.”

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Craig Larson can be reached at clarson@globe.com.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, Amherst coach E.J. Mills’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.