Williams College football team heads to Middlebury this weekend to face undefeated Panthers
WILLIAMSTOWN — There are only two undefeated football teams remaining in NESCAC. By the time the sun sets on Saturday, Williams coach Mark Raymond, his staff and players will hope that number has dropped by at least one.
That's because the Ephs head up Route 7 into Vermont on Saturday to play undefeated Middlebury.
It isn't going to be an easy afternoon for the 3-1 Ephs, because coach Bob Ritter's Panthers (4-0) will put a ton of pressure on the young defense for Williams.
"They put it up there, and I know why," Raymond said. "They have an outstanding quarterback, a very good group of receivers, and they are very efficient at throwing the ball."
The Panthers' offense starts with quarterback Jared Lebowitz. The senior from Burlington, Vt., transferred in two years ago from Division I UNLV. All Lebowitz has done is treat opposing NESCAC defenses like they're on his video screen and he's playing Madden.
In four games this year, Lebowitz has completed 92-of-161 passes for 1,262 yards. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes and has been intercepted only two times.
The Panthers under Ritter and current offensive coordinator Dave Caputi — the same Dave Caputi who was once Dick Farley's offensive coordinator at Williams — average 327.8 yards passing per game, 13.7 yards per completion and have scored 13 passing touchdowns compared to three rushing. Middlebury's total offense is 439.5 yards per game.
Four different Middlebury receivers have caught at least 10 passes. The top target is junior Conrado Banky — also the leader in the NESCAC best name clubhouse — as he has caught 24 passes for 362 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.
"They've been hitting big plays in the past games. They're pretty explosive," said Raymond. "[Lebowitz] has a great arm. He'll throw it into tight spots. We've got to keep him in the pocket and make him make some tough throws."
If the Ephs can keep Lebowitz from making plays with his feet, defensive end Jameson DeMarco (four sacks), tackle Chris Hattar (two sacks) and freshman linebacker Jarrett Wesner (two sacks) could put lots of pressure on the quarterback.
Last year, the Ephs had 14 sacks in an eight-game season. They also had six interceptions in 2016, and have four already in 2017.
Williams will pack its gear and its best record in a while for the foliage ride up to Middlebury. The last time Williams was over .500 at this point in the season was back in 2011, when Williams was 3-2, before finishing 5-3.
The Ephs are coming off their best performance of the season, a 47-14 win over Bates. In that game, the Ephs had 590 yards in total offense and scored six touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Bobby Maimaron, the NESCAC offensive player of the week, was 17 of 24 for 282 yards and touchdowns of 19, 55 and 77 yards. He also carried the ball 10 times for 52 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Williams has scored 13 touchdowns this year, seven in the air and six on the ground. The second-year coach said the ground game is becoming a real weapon.
"The offensive line is starting to jell a little bit," Raymond said. "Connor [Harris] is getting a good feel for the running game. Bobby can run the ball, too.
"We're starting to add a few wrinkles."
Middlebury defensive back Kevin Hopsicker is the reigning defensive player of the week. He had eight tackles and picked off an Amherst pass and ran it back 32 yards for a touchdown in the Panthers' 35-31 win in Amherst.
It will be a challenge to score as much against a Middlebury team that only gives up 19.5 points and 330 yards per game.
"They're very sound. They have a very good front seven," said Raymond. "We're going to have to be very multi-dimensional."
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 @howardherman.
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