With Little Three on the horizon, Williams College football team focused on Hamilton

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The Little Three may be more than a week away, but Wesleyan and Amherst are not yet on the radar screen for the Williams College football team.

For head coach Mark Raymond and the Ephs, it's first thing first. That means Hamilton.

"Not at all," said Raymond, when asked if he's concerned about his team looking ahead to November's Little Three competition.

"These guys know what kind of opponents are ahead of them. We've focused on each day at a time," he said, "and with that comes each opponent. We're not concerned about that."

Williams will host the Continentals of head coach Dave Murray on Saturday at Farley-Lamb Field. A win would guarantee the 4-2 Ephs their first winning season since they went 5-3 in 2011.

A win also would give Williams a chance to bounce back from a disappointing 21-13 loss at the hands of Tufts at home last weekend.

"It's the mentality our kids have," said the second-year Williams coach. "Whether it's a big win over someone or a loss, you move on to the next opponent. That's the way it's got to be."

The Continentals (2-4) are riding the wave of a two-game winning streak as they arrive in Williamstown. After losing their first four games, Hamilton beat Bowdoin and Colby.

Last week, Hamilton rallied from a 17-0 deficit to beat Colby, 27-24. Mitch Bierman's two-yard touchdown run with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter put Hamilton ahead for keeps.

Bierman is Hamilton's leading rusher, having gained 330 yards on 75 carries.

Like Williams, Hamilton has a young quarterback. Sophomore Kenny Gray took over for Cole Freeman in the fourth game of the 2016 season and has not let go of the reins. He has completed 115 of 220 passes for 1,372 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has two top targets in wide receivers Christian Donohue and Joe Schmidt, both of whom have caught 34 passes for more than 500 yards. Schmidt has seven touchdown catches.

And much like the Ephs, Hamilton's top tacklers are linebackers. Juniors Tyler Hudson and Cole Burchill are a bit undersized — both are under 6-feet tall and weigh around 215 pounds — but they are the top tacklers for the Continentals.

"They're a very well-coached, tough football team. I've competed against Coach Murray for the last 20 years, so I know his staff always does a great job preparing his players," said Raymond. "They have good receivers, who are some of the best in the league. They got a quarterback who gets them the ball, and they've got an aggressive defense."

Murray had coached at Alfred for 16 years and SUNY Cortland for seven before taking over at Hamilton four seasons ago.

Williams' loss on Saturday ended a three-game winning streak.

"I think our kids came to play. They played an extremely hard, physical game. I'm very proud of the way they competed," said Raymond. "There were some missed assignments on both sides of the ball. Defensively, in the pass game, we missed a few assignments that cost us. Offensively, some routes or missed blocks that we wished we would have back.

That's typical in the game of football, but when you're playing against an opponent at that level, they're going to capitalize."

Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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