WEST SPRINGFIELD -- Williams College football coach Aaron Kelton isn’t one to predict the future. The third-year Williams coach did say that preseason practice has gone much easier than it did 12 months ago.
"It’s a lot easier. When you have a field to practice on, it’s always a good thing," Kelton said at the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame coaches’ luncheon. "What’s important for us is that we learn to practice well.
"With the easy part of it, there’s a harder part because we’re a younger team. We’ve got a young team, so we have to teach those young guys how to practice."
The Ephs wrap up their third week of practice today with a scrimmage against Little Three rival Amherst, and then Kelton and his staff will prepare for the season opener on Sept. 22 at Weston Field against Colby.
Twelve months ago, the Ephs were hopping from small field to small field, finding whatever spot of grass was fairly dry for practice. That’s because in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, there was at one point 10 feet of water on the Cole Field complex where the Ephs practice and the soccer teams play their home games.
Despite that, Williams still went 5-3. That’s a record many college football coaches would trade a first-born child for. But coming off an 8-0 record the year before, it was a disappointing season in the Purple Valley.
Kelton is not one to make excuses for what happens on the field, often saying "the standard is the standard." But the inability to practice regularly on their practice field forced the Ephs to play catch-up all season.
"Sure it did. Not being able to have the types of practices that we needed to have and being on surfaces we weren’t going to play on, all those things come into play," he said. "Being in our space, we’ve got our fields set up and things are going pretty smoothly."
Also going smoothly is the recovery of Alex Scyocurka. The junior from Longmeadow was being counted on to replace Ryan Lupo last year. Scyocurka carried the ball twice in the opener at Bowdoin for 13 yards, then suffered a leg injury that put him on the sideline for the rest of the season.
Kelton said Scyocurka is healthy and running well. The coach said that the running back is faster because Scyocurka dropped a few pounds.
Junior quarterback Adam Marske, who took over when starter Chris Cleary sprained an ankle in last year’s second game at Trinity, is the definite No. 1. Sophomore Thomas Murphy from Northbridge High School near Worcester is the backup.
Kelton said the Ephs would be young, especially on the defensive side of the ball where only linebackers Emmanuel Whyte and Chris Cameron return along with starting defensive backs Andre LaFontant and Ladd Hamrick.
When Williams and the rest of NESCAC take the field for keeps in seven days, they will be the last schools to play football games.
"It comes with the territory," he said. "We talk about this every year. Certainly, we’d love to play more and sooner, and all of those things. You know what? We’re at the same disadvantage everybody else is in our league. What we just try to do is prepare well."