When the NESCAC football schools finish their games on Saturday, they will have passed the halfway point and are beginning their descent to the end of 2021.
One thing that is pretty apparent, the top four teams have separated themselves, both record-wise and playing-wise.
WILLIAMSTOWN — Four games, four wins.
Three teams, Williams, Wesleyan and Trinity, are perfect at 4-0. Amherst, meanwhile, is at 3-1, as the Mammoths have won their last two games. That includes Saturday’s 17-10 win at Middlebury.
The rubber won’t, in fact, meet the road until the latter stages of the NESCAC season. That’s because those four teams won’t be finding each other on the schedule until then.
If you are looking to find some on-paper advantages, then Williams and Wesleyan will have them. Both the Ephs and Cardinals have two of their final three games at home.
Williams will host Trinity on Oct. 30, and then host the Cardinals of former Eph player and assistant coach Dan DiCenzo on Nov. 6. Williams will close out the season at Amherst on Nov. 13. Wesleyan will be at home on Oct. 30 against Amherst and again on Nov. 13, against Trinity.
Trinity’s lone home game will be Nov. 6, against Amherst, while the Mammoths will play at home only against Williams.
And much to the surprise of nobody, those four teams are all over the top of the NESCAC team statistics.
Williams is currently the leader in scoring (35.8 points on offense, 11.3 points on defense). Trinity is second on offense (35.5) and on defense (12.3), while Wesleyan is third in offense (29.0). Amherst is third in defense (15.3) and Wesleyan is fourth (19.0).
The Ephs lead NESCAC in rushing, averaging 220 yards per game, which will make things interesting down the stretch. Wesleyan has given up only 52.5 yards per game, while Trinity gives up 67 yards per game and Amherst 77 yards per contest.
Players of the weekBowdoin quarterback Andrew Boel is the NESCAC offensive player of the week.
The sophomore made his first career start in a 38-35 loss to Wesleyan. But, Boel set a school record with five touchdown passes. His 410 yards passing, on 21-of-30 throws, was second most in school history.
The defensive player of the week also came from Maine. Bates senior linebacker Spencer Adams had 12 tackles and an interception as the Bobcats beat Tufts 33-10.
For the second consecutive week, Wesleyan kicker Daniel Yuan is the special teams player of the week. He was 5 for 5 on point-after kicks and made a 26-yard field goal in the win over Bowdoin.
Game of the weekIt isn’t often that Bowdoin would be involved in a game of the week. It’s less likely that the Polar Bears would win a game on the road against an undefeated team. That’s what almost happened in Middletown, Conn., and that’s why it is the game of the week.
The Polar Bears came into the game at Wesleyan having scored 24 points all season. Instead of getting beaten by a bunch, Bowdoin battled the Cardinals to the final seconds.
It was a game with three lead changes and four ties, and Bowdoin scored first for the first time since getting a first-quarter touchdown against Wesleyan in 2019. The Cardinals won that game 20-13 on a late touchdown.
This became the game of the week because of a thrilling fourth quarter.
The score was 28-28 after a six-yard touchdown pass from David Estevez to Charlie McPhee with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Yoon’s 26-yard field goal with 9:43 left in the game gave the Cardinals a 31-28 lead.
Bowdoin came right back and answered. Boel’s 50-yard pass to Colton Fahey gave the Polar Bears the lead, and the PAT kick made it 35-31.
The Bowdoin defense had a chance to lock up the win if it could get one stop. Wesleyan started a drive on its own 23, and marched into Bowdoin territory. Instead of kicking a potential tying field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 13, DiCenzo elected to go for it. McPhee got the first down, and three plays later, scored the winning TD.
Bowdoin responded and the offensive player of the week marched his team to the Wesleyan 20. But Jotham Casey’s 37-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
The week aheadIf the Polar Bears are going to beat one of the “Big 4,” it could happen this weekend when Bowdoin hosts Amherst.
Otherwise, the game of the week will be in Clinton, N.Y., as Williams travels to Hamilton.
The Ephs have two tough road games because of travel. This weekend, it’s the long bus ride south of Utica. Next week, it’s back on a bus for an overnight trip to Lewiston, Maine, to play Bates.
Noontime Sports pollIn the latest Noontime Sports New England Division III football poll, five NESCAC teams are ranked in the top 20.
Endicott is the new No. 1 team, and the Gulls are followed by Trinity and Williams. Wesleyan is ranked ninth, Amherst 17th and Bates 20th.
The fifth-ranked team this week is Salve Regina, which is coached by former Williams receiver Kevin Gilmartin.