Struggling Williams opens Little Three football season at Wesleyan
WILLIAMSTOWN — To say this has been a frustrating season for the Williams College football team would be an understatement.
It would not be understating things, however, to say that if the Ephs were to win their final two games, the players might be among the happiest players on a .500 team in America. That's because it's Little Three season.
"These games definitely hold more weight in our minds than the rest of them," said Williams senior wide receiver Mark Pomella. "You hear people say it around here all the time that as long as you beat Amherst, it's a successful season, and Wesleyan as well.
"We're looking forward to that game in particular. If we can get a couple of wins coming up, we'll be happy."
Kickoff at Corwin Stadium in Middletown, Conn., is 1 p.m. Saturday as the Ephs open their Little Three schedule. Wesleyan has already lost a Little Three game to Amherst, so a win by the Ephs would put them in position to win a Little Three title with a win over the Lord Jeffs next week. Wesleyan brings a two-game winning streak against Williams into the contest.
But for Williams coach Aaron Kelton, whose team is 2-4, it's not about a Little Three win, it's all just about a win.
"Because there's a level of frustration with them, that all of it is still built up. For me, it's just about going out and playing well and winning the game," Kelton said, "and getting them in that positive mood. I think there's a little added edge because it's the Little Three, but I don't think it's easier.
"Actually I think it's harder [to get ready] because of the rut they're in. They can see their mistakes and where they are, and they didn't anticipate being here."
Williams hasn't won a Little Three title since 2010. Amherst has won three of the last four, and the Cardinals won the title in 2013. It was the first time in 42 years that Wesleyan had won an outright Little Three title.
A loss on Saturday would give the Ephs a third consecutive losing season, something that hasn't happened since the mid-1980s. From 1983-85, Williams went 7-15-2, the worst three seasons since Division III records were kept starting in 1973.
The Cardinals could hold a Williams alumni meeting. First-year head coach Dan DiCenzo played and coached at Williams. He coached under current Wesleyan athletic director Mike Whalen at Williams and went with Whalen to Wesleyan, taking over the head coaching job this year.
Offensive coordinator Eric Ludwig played and coached at Williams while assistant coach Elijah Weeks was a standout running back at Williams.
Wesleyan brings the conference's second-best offense into the game. DiCenzo's team averages 417 yards per game and 21 points per game. Quarterback Gernald Hawkins is fifth in the NESCAC in total offense and seventh in rushing. Running back Jaylen Berry is fifth in the conference in rushing. Hawkins is a sophomore and Nick Picciarello is a freshman, both take turns at quarterback.
"They've got a good program. They've got good players and so we're going to have to go out and play a really good football game if we hope to walk away with a victory," said Kelton. "They're super-athletic on offense and their quarterbacks run around pretty well. Containing the quarterback is a big part of it, because they can get first downs with their feet."
Two wins would give Williams a 4-4 mark, something the Ephs haven't had since 2012. That's as much a goal as winning the Little Three.
"It doesn't change the fact that we didn't perform as well as we should have or as well as we expected in the beginning of the season," said right tackle Vincent Molinari. "Having the Little Three is definitely something we're looking forward to as a team.
"It's a chance to go out and [show] the talent that's on this team and the potential this team has."
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