Williams College Football players practice

The Williams College football team does a drill during practice.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Members of the Williams College football team have the number “571” stitched into their game pants. That symbolizes the number of steps from Farley-Lamb Field to the barber shop on Spring Street. That is the path Ephs trod after beating Amherst or Wesleyan in a Little Three home game.

If head coach Mark Raymond had wanted to, he could have put the “571” on one side of the pants and the number “647” on the other. Those are the days since the Ephs last played football on Farley-Lamb.

“It’s certainly exciting,” Raymond said. “We’re starting to get a little buzz around campus now, and it’s becoming a reality. We’re excited and I know our guys have worked really hard to this point.

“We can’t wait to get going.”

The Ephs, who beat Amherst 31-9 back on Nov. 9, 2019, had the 2020 football campaign cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Purple and Gold will hit the turf at Farley-Lamb on Saturday at 2 p.m., when reigning champion Middlebury visits for the first of nine NESCAC conference games.

Williams College Football players practice

Williams College football coach Mark Raymond leads a drill during practice at Farley-Lamb Field in Williamstown. 

It seems like a long, long time ago, but it was only 2019 when Raymond’s Ephs went 7-2 and finished third in the conference. Middlebury beat Williams 17-13 in the 2019 opener in Vermont. The Panthers then proceeded to run the table to claim the conference championship and become the first team in NESCAC history to go 9-0 in a season. NESCAC only started playing nine games in a season in the 2017 season.

Wesleyan, the only other team to beat Williams in the 2019 season, finished second with an 8-1 record. The Cardinals are the reigning Little Three champions, as Dan DiCenzo’s team beat Amherst 31-28 in two overtimes, and then beat the Ephs 27-21 in overtime.

Williams comes into the season seeking its first Little Three and NESCAC championships since 2010, when the Ephs went 8-0.

“I thought we had a great training camp. The kids came in really well-prepared, both physically and mentally,” Raymond said before practice earlier in the week. “We were able to jump into Middlebury pretty quickly. So, we’ve had a pretty good prep period for them.”

Raymond, who is beginning his fifth or sixth season (depending on how one counts the 2020 season) at the Williams helm, said preparing for Middlebury and the rest of NESCAC is going to be a challenge. While there is game tape of every NESCAC team’s 2019 season, the year off does potentially allow for teams to make changes and adjustments.

“They have their DNA and their returning players that we think will be there, but we still have to be ready for contingencies,” he said.

As to his team? Raymond said he and his staff did not reinvent the wheel in the off year.

“Obviously, there’s some different personnel you’ll see in there and some different things schematically. But I think the hallmarks that we like to build our team on,” he said, “being physical and stopping the run and running the ball well, are what we hope are still there.”

So, with that, what will the 2021 Williams Ephs look like?

OFFENSE

A large contingent of players from Raymond’s first full recruiting class elected to take one semester off in 2020, in order to play one final season together. Two of them play pitch and catch as well as any duo in Williams history and in NESCAC.

Quarterback Bobby Maimaron and wide receiver Frank Stola have been pretty much joined at the hip since both arrived on the Williamstown campus. The senior QB from Duxbury has five 100-yard rushing games, and threw for a career-best 289 yards and four touchdowns in a 2019 win against Tufts.

Stola caught 13 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns in that one. The 233 receiving yards and the four scores were school records, and part of several the senior from Long Island set in 2019. He holds the single-season mark for touchdown catches (12) and the career record for receptions (141), touchdowns (27) and yards (2,123). Stola was a first-team, All-NESCAC pick and Maimaron was a second teamer

Two receivers who were listed as starters in the 2019 finale against Amherst are not back. They are Justin Nelson and Rashad Morrison. Moving over from defense to start at wide receiver is Ethan McCullough.

The Williams projected starting lineup includes a fullback for the first time in Raymond’s tenure. Joel Nicholas, who ran for 665 yards last season, is penciled in at fullback, alongside tailback Dan Vaughn. Vaughn, a second-team All-NESCAC selection, ran for 779 net yards, the most by a Williams back since Ryan Lupo ran for 773 yards back in 2010.

Justin Burke returns at tight end, with Tyler Spiezio in reserve.

Three regulars from the 2019 offensive line are gone. Terry Zapf transferred to Division I Illinois, where he is on the football roster. Jeff MacArthur and Jeremy Subjinski both graduated. MacArthur and Zapf were second-team picks in 2019

All-NESCAC first teamer Patrick Watson and John Rooney are the returning starters. Former Hampshire Regional High School standout Talon Garelli, Mike Tartaglia and John Freeman are the other starters. Raymond said new offensive line coach Nick Hennessey is working so the line can plug-and-play in multiple positions. Hennessey takes over for Tom Blumenauer, who is the new offensive coordinator.

First-year Ivan Shuran is the placekicker.

DEFENSE

The best defense in NESCAC gave up only 11.4 points per game in 2019. There will be some changes on the defensive side of the ball in 2021.

Last time we saw defensive coordinator Mark McDonough’s crew, they were running a 4-3 base defense. This year, the Ephs are — according to the projected starters list — going with three down linemen and four linebackers.

Part of that is due to the talent at linebacker, and part is due to the loss of some talent along the defensive front. Ian Devine is the only returning starter on the line, and he’ll be flanked by new starters Charlie Giunta and C.J. Villfort.

First-team All-NESCAC linebacker T.J. Rothmann and second teamer Jarrett Wesner, will play linebacker. They will be joined by No. 4 backer of a year ago Coleston Smith and Ed Manzella. Manzella, like the graduated Luke Apuzzi, is a converted defensive back. Former Wahconah and Berkshire School linebacker Ethan Scott is in the linebackers room as a first-year.

The secondary returns three veterans in Rocco Gidomenico, Drew Michalek and Josh Wax. Chaz Cotton, who appeared in five games last year, is the other starter in the secondary.

Andrew Schreibstein, who punted and kicked two years ago, will do the punting this year.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.