The Williams College football team finished its first season with a 2-4 record. If the Ephs can go 2-0 in their second season, they'll take their pads off with pride.
That's because the Little Three portion of the Eph schedule begins this afternoon in Middletown, Conn., when Williams faces NESCAC leader Wesleyan.
"For our upperclassmen, I'm sure there's a little bit of an edge that they have," Williams head coach Aaron Kelton said.
The Cardinals of Mike Whalen, who coached Williams before Kelton, are 6-0 for the first time since 1993. The Cardinals lost to Williams 5416 that year.
Wesleyan has never won a NESCAC championship and has won only 12 Little Three titles. The Cardinals haven't won an outright Little Three title since 1970.
Amherst has 30 and Williams 48. The most recent three-way tie came in 2002.
"For us, it's our focus to try and be better every day. Our guys are working at it in a way in which they just want to win games," Kelton said. "Every week, for the last five weeks, has been just 0-0 and let's not focus on anything else.
"Now, we've talked about some of the underlying stories that are going on, but for the most part, we're playing so many young kids they don't know [the Little Three]. They know Coach Kelton."
Wesleyan enters the game having won road contests at Amherst (20-14) and Bowdoin (34-14).
Tailback LaDarius Drew is the reigning NESCAC offensive co-player of the week after rushing for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Bowdoin. He comes into the Williams game having run for 655 yards in six games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and has scored nine rushing touchdowns.
"You've got to slow him down," said Kelton. "You've got to be physical with him and limit his big plays. If you're able to [keep him contained], I think that'll help. He's going to break the first tackle, so you've got to get two guys to wrap him up."
Junior quarterback Jesse Warren is 82 of 109 for 972 yards and has thrown for a conference-best 14 touchdowns. His top target is wide receiver Josh Hurwitz, who has caught 26 passes.
The Ephs have played pretty good defense for much of the season. After the season-opening 31-8 loss at Colby, the Ephs gave up an average of 18 points per game in the next three losses. That's usually enough to win some games, but the Ephs scored 37 points on those three games combined.
Williams pitched a 24-0 shutout against Hamilton last week, the first shutout by the Ephs since 2010.
Defensive end James Howe, a sophomore from Charlotte, N.C., had a huge game for the Ephs. The lineman had seven tackles, six solo tackles, and 31 2 sacks. He has 71 2 sacks in his last two games, and leads NESCAC with 9 sacks. Teammate Mike Flynn has 31 2 and he is sixth in the league. Howe also forced two fumbles and recovered one.
While the best Williams can do this year is 4-4 if they sweep the Little Three, a title would end Amherst's two-year streak of being the best in the Little Three.
"We've started slow and our record doesn't show it, but we're better than we've played as well," said Kelton. "I think it's going to be a good game."
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