WILLIAMSTOWN — The Williams College football team will take its perfect 5-0 record back on the road this weekend and have a potentially tough opponent on the docket.
Not that Bates has been all that good this year, the Bobcats are 1-4. But with games against Trinity, Wesleyan and Amherst upcoming on the Eph schedule, the members of the Williams roster could think that this could be a walkover win against a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2014.
Williams head coach Mark Raymond said the players understand the definition of a trap game.
"We approach this game with the same thought process and philosophy that we entered training camp with," Raymond said. "We take each week one at a time, and our opponents are playing in conference games every week, so there are no weeks off. It's just a matter of maintaining our focus and understanding this is a dangerous opponent, especially on the road, and we'll get to the other games when we get there."
Kickoff in Lewiston, Maine, is set for 1 p.m. and Williams is looking to go to 6-0 for the first time since the 2010 season when the Ephs were a perfect 8-0. Williams, Trinity and Wesleyan are all 5-0 and are all looking for their first 9-0 perfect seasons.
The Bobcats are 1-4 this year, but if there is anything that puts them on the radar screen, it's the fact that the Bobcats had two close losses against the other members of the Little Three.
In the season opener at home against Amherst, Bates was outscored 14-3 in the second half as the Mammoths rallied for a 28-20 victory. Two weeks later against Wesleyan, a David Estevez touchdown pass with 4:29 left in the game gave the Cardinals the lead for keeps in a 27-24 win. The Bobcats had a chance to win the game, but after marching from their own 31-yard line to the Wesleyan 28, Bates quarterback Brendan Costa was intercepted on first down and the Cardinals just ran out the clock.
Costa is the player on offense that concerns Raymond the most. The senior quarterback is No. 2 in NESCAC, having thrown for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also thrown eight interceptions. Costa's top target is receiver Sean Bryant. Costa is also the No. 4 rushing quarterback in NESCAC. Costa won the New England Football Writers Gold Helmet Award for his performance in a 33-10 win over Tufts. Costa was 19 of 29 for 254 yards and three touchdowns to Bryant. Costa also ran for 113 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.
The Bobcats are led by interim head coach Ed Argast, who replaced Malik Hall in late July. Hall was not retained coming into the 2021 season, and Argast was quoted in Maine media that he was not planning to make wholesale changes to what the Bobcats do on either side of the ball.
"Their quarterback is dynamic. That's the biggest thing," Raymond said, in a Thursday morning interview. "He can make plays all over the field running and throwing. He's as dangerous a player as we're going to see all year. He gets your attention in a hurry. Defensively, they're pretty sound. They don't give you anything, so you're going to have to earn everything you get on the offensive side of the ball.
"They certainly present problems for us, and we're going to have to work hard to make sure we're able to move the ball and stop them on offense."
While Williams is getting healthier in some places, two key members of the offense may not play Saturday. Wide receiver Frank Stola did not play in last week's win at Hamilton, while tight end Justin Burke made one catch for 27 yards against the Continentals, but ended up not playing for much of the game. Raymond said Thursday's practice could go a long way toward determining if the two key cogs to the offense will be available. Linebacker Jarrett Wesner, who has not played since the opener against Middlebury, is also working his way back. Their status might be known come game time.
The injuries have caused Raymond and his staff to move some inexperienced players into key spots on each side of the ball. With Stola and Burke out, first-year wide receiver Cam Lee and junior Will Loffredo have stepped up. Loffredo made his first two career catches this year, one against Bowdoin and one against Hamilton. Lee caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bobby Maimaron in the win at Hamilton. On defense, that group includes sophomore linebacker Tim Landolfi. Landolfi, like Maimaron a Duxbury High School graduate, is the No. 5 tackler for the Ephs as he has been filling Wesner's spot.
Raymond said he was most pleased with the newcomers' preparation "not knowing sometimes if they're going to be in and still preparing like a starter and going in and performing like one. That's the biggest thing, that they're so prepared and ready to go no matter what role they might be thrust into."