Williams College football team set to open season against Bowdoin
The Ephs open their 2017 season on Saturday, hosting Bowdoin at Farley-Lamb Field. It is the inaugural season of the complete round-robin in NESCAC, where everyone plays everyone else. That gave Williams, and its conference brethren, one less week to prepare for the season.
"They did great" at camp, Raymond said earlier this week. "Obviously, we had to do a couple of things with adjustments to the schedules, and our guys did a great job of that and I'm proud of them."
The Ephs are coming off an 0-8 season, the first such season since 1947. Saturday's game is the first time that Williams and an opponent are both coming off 0-8 years.
Something will have to give because Williams is on a 13-game skid and Bowdoin has lost 12 straight.
This is Raymond's second season at the Eph helm, and the second time in his career he is rebuilding a program. Back in 2012 at St. Lawrence, Raymond's team went 0-10 after two sub-.500 seasons. The next three years, the Saints went 7-3, 8-2 and 8-3, making the NCAA Division III tournament in the third year.
So the veteran coach knows something about rebuilding and what it takes.
"Every season is different. Every team is different," he said. "You have new guys, new challenges, new strengths and weaknesses. No matter where you are, every season is a new deal and you have to adjust to it."
The Ephs will begin adjusting to year two under Raymond Saturday at noon.
Last year's Ephs started out behind the eight-ball because junior quarterback John Gannon — the lone veteran QB on the 2016 roster — injured his knee on the first day of training camp, and was lost for the season.
Between freshmen Jansen Durham and Peter Cahill and sophomore Jaelon Mooney, Williams pieced together an offense that was sixth in total offense, but tied for eighth in scoring offense. Williams averaged only 12.4 points per game last year.
Gannon is back, fully healthy, and has been named a co-captain by his teammates. Durham, who finished fifth in passing in NESCAC last year, is listed as the starter in Williams' pre-game notes package. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see Gannon on the field.
There has been a healthy, three-way competition between Durham, Gannon and freshman Bobby Maimaron. Maimaron was a Boston Herald All-Scholastic last year at Duxbury High School, and now holds the career touchdown passing record in Massachusetts. He threw 122 TD passes, breaking the record set by former BC star, and Heisman Trophy winner, Doug Flutie.
According to the aforementioned press notes, the Williams offense will be really young. Make that really, really young. The notes list five freshman starters, including BC High offensive lineman Patrick Watson. Watson was sought after by many Ivy League-caliber institutions before settling on Williams. The other freshmen listed in the starting lineup are tight end Justi Burke, wide receivers Frank Stola and Justin Nelson and running back T.J. Dozier.
Dozier leads a group of runners that includes senior Connor Harris, junior Noah Sorrento and sophomore Steve Bohling.
Burke could end up being a top target, as he was a highly-recruited tight end out of New Jersey. Senior Adam Regensburg led the Ephs with 37 catches last year. Sophomore Tyler Patterson, who played tight end and wide receiver, caught 13 passes in only three games.
Last year, Regensburg was forced into a role as the kicker and the punter. He will still punt, but freshman Min Park is slated to handle placekicking chores. Park played at Milton Academy and replaced Justin Yoon as that school's kicker. Yoon is the placekicker at Notre Dame. While Park is a native of Seoul, South Korea, he grew up in Nashville.
The top tacklers on last year's Eph defense were both defensive backs, which in football terms means that there were a lot of plays having to be made downfield.
The top returning tackler is sophomore safety Ben Anthony, and six of his returning teammates fell into the top 10.
The most experienced unit for Williams on defense is the line. Senior co-captain Chris Hattar and senior Sam Gowen man the inside of the 4-3 defense, while juniors Austin Thomas and Jameson DeMarco are at defensive end. DeMarco was a bit of a revelation last year with 33 tackles and a pair of sacks. Gowen had three sacks last year, leading the team.
The game notes report that the linebacking corps is the most inexperienced group on defense. Two freshmen and a sophomore are listed as starters. One of them is T.J. Rothmann, a high school teammate of Watson. Rothmann was one of the top linebackers in Eastern Massachusetts last year. Rothmann's BC High team lost to Xaverian in the MIAA Division I South championship game.
Freshman Jarrett Wesner and sophomore Luke Apuzzi are listed as the other starting linebackers.
The starting secondary has Anthony and freshman Jake Kastenhuber at safety, with juniors Amhyr Barber and Desmond Butler at corner.
The Polar Bears, who haven't played Williams since 2015, didn't get much going in coach J.B. Wells' second year.
Bowdoin was 10th in total offense and total defense, 10th in passing and rushing defense, 10th in rushing offense and rushing defense.
Junior quarterback Noah Nelson, 10th in passing last year in NESCAC, takes over for Tim Drakeley. Nate Richam, a sophomore running back, was fifth in NESCAC last year and he is the primary rushing weapon.
Sophomore linebacker Joe Gowetski was second in the conference last year with 92 total tackles.
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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