It is rubber meets the road time in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
There are three football games left in the regular season, and the three undefeated teams in the conference have yet to play each other. That will change by the time the sun sets on Saturday.
Williams, Wesleyan and Trinity are all 6-0, and all three of those teams will put their perfect records on the line Saturday afternoon. The Ephs will host the Trinity Bantams in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff, while Wesleyan will host Amherst in the first Little Three game of the season.
The Ephs will play Wesleyan next week, while the Bantams will host Amherst in their only home game of the final three contests.
Williams hasn’t won a NESCAC championship since 2010, while Wesleyan hasn’t won since splitting the 2013 title with Amherst. Trinity and Amherst split the 2018 title.
All three teams are seeking to become only the second team to go 9-0 in a season. Middlebury accomplished that in 2019.
The three schools have each other, and Amherst, still to play, so they have all played the other six football-playing members of NESCAC.
Trinity has had an average margin of victory of 26 points, while Williams has a margin of victory of 24. Wesleyan’s margin of victory has been 11 points. Each team has a shutout to its credit. Williams shut out Colby 42-0, Trinity shut out Middlebury 28-0, while Wesleyan shut out Middlebury 24-0.
The Bantams are the only team that really has not had to eke out a victory. Their closest result was a 42-28 win over Tufts. Williams had a 32-29 overtime win over Tufts as its one true close result. Wesleyan beat Tufts 36-35, Bowdoin 38-35 and Bates 27-24.
NESCAC Players of the WeekWilliams will see the reigning offensive player of the week this Saturday in sophomore quarterback Spencer Fetter. The Trinity signal caller was 27 for 33 for 320 yards and four second-half touchdown passes in the win over Colby. More on that later.
Ricky Goodson, a senior defensive back from Amherst, is the defensive player of the week. He had two interceptions, six tackles and three pass breakups in Amherst’s 21-0 win over Hamilton.
The special teams player of the week is Tufts freshman Andre Smith, whose 46-yard punt return set up a back-breaking touchdown in Tufts’ win over Bowdoin.
Game of the WeekThe game of the week was in Waterville, Maine, as Colby was looking to move to .500 and hand Trinity its first loss of 2021.
The Mules led 12-0 at halftime as they held the Bantams on six separate drives in the first half, and forced a punt on the first drive of the second.
But after that, Trinity had five drives and scored five touchdowns to win going away. The Bantams scored all five touchdowns within the final 20 minutes of the second half.
Coaching TreesNESCAC is most often compared to the Ivy League when it comes to sports, particularly football. Sometimes, the NESCAC schools are referred to as “Little Ivys.”
While Ivy League teams do play non-conference games, which NESCAC does not allow, neither conference has teams playing for the Division I-FCS or Division III championships.
One other thing the two conferences have in common is that Ivy League coaching staffs have numerous NESCAC alumni coaching for them.
The largest NESCAC contingent is at Harvard, and that group is led by former Williams defensive back Jon Poppe. Poppe, who was a three-year starter at defensive back and first-team All-NESCAC his senior year, is the secondary and special teams coach at Harvard. Poppe graduated from Williams in 2007.
Joining Poppe on Tim Murphy’s staff are defensive line coach Mike Huran and safeties coach Anthony Fucillo. Huran was a two-time All-NESCAC safety at Bates, where he graduated in 2004. Fucillo was a standout quarterback at Tufts who graduated in 2014. He also spent 2014-16 as the quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Amherst.
Bates graduate (2014) Andrew Kukesh is the defensive line coach at Columbia, and he also coached at Trinity. Eric Bunker, the 2011 NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year as a running back at Amherst (Class of 2012) is the wide receivers coach at Brown. The head coach at Brown is James Perry, who spent time as Dick Farley’s offensive coordinator at Williams in 2002 and 2003. Williams was 13-3 in those two years.
And Elijah Weeks is the director of player development at Yale. Weeks had been an assistant football and basketball coach at Wesleyan. At Williams, he led the Ephs in rushing in 2005 and scored on a six-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to break a 10-10 tie and give the Ephs a 34-23 win over Amherst.